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History and politics of Luxembourg, European capital

Political system in Luxembourg

After a restless history due to successions and other conflicts in Europe, Luxembourg became a Grand Duchy in 1815 and acquired its independence in 1839.

The country has been managed by Grand Duke Henri since 2000, within a constitutional monarchy. Luxembourg is one of the founding countries of the European Union,  particularly due to Robert Schuman, Luxemburger of origin. Luxembourg nowadays shelters numerous European institutions and attracts a very international population.

History of Luxembourg

Devise Luxembourg Mir wolle Bleiwen

The capital of Luxembourg takes its name from a small castle, Lucilinburhuc, built by Count Sigefroi in 963, which gave birth to the city, the County and then, in 1353, the Duchy of Luxembourg. Over the centuries, the small castle became one of the most powerful fortresses in Europe in the 19th century, and was even described as the “Gibraltar of the North”.

See the story of Mélusine, wife of Count Sigefroi.

The County passed successively from the hands of the Holy Germanic Empire at its origin, to the Netherlands with Philip the Good Duke of Burgundy in 1443, to the Habsburgs of Spain in 1555 with the abdication of Charles V, then to France in 1659 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees. It was at this time that the Vauban fortifications were built.
In 1697, the County returned to Spain, whose War of Succession gave Luxembourg to Austria in 1715, then to France following the blockade of the Revolutionary troops in 1795.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna returned Luxembourg, then Grand Duchy, to the Netherlands. With the Treaty of London in 1839, Luxembourg acquired its independence and its current form, part of which was given to Belgium (the province of Belgian Luxembourg).

With the passing of the centuries and the attackers, the original fortress became stronger. It became known as the “Gibraltar of the North”, protected by 3 fortified belts and 24 forts. A huge network of 23 km of underground galleries dug into the rock, sheltered the soldiers and horses, but above all allowed them to survive despite the assaults thanks to the underground kitchens, bakeries and slaughterhouses. Following Luxembourg’s independence in 1839, the fortress was evacuated and dismantled. The fortifications were razed to the ground in 1867, to be replaced by new developments such as the Municipal Garden.

“Mir wölle bleiwe wat mir sin” – “We want to remain what we are”

Luxembourg’s motto testifies of its will of independence towards countries having annexed it and its will to keep its national identity.

The constitutional monarchy, the Luxembourg political system

From a political point of view, Luxembourg is a representative democracy, in the form of a constitutional monarchy.

The national holiday is on the 23rd of June, the symbolic day of the Grand Duke’s birthday.

The Head of State: the Grand Duke

In 1890, Luxembourg obtains its own dynasty with the accession of Grand Duke Adolphe.

The Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde will succeed him in 1912 and will abdicate in 1919 further to the invasion of the German troops during the WW1. Her sister, the Grand Duchess Charlotte succeeds her. During the WW2, the country is invaded again by the German troops. The Grand Duchess and her government retreat. Luxembourg is freed in June 1944 by the American troops. The Grand Duke Jean succeeds his mother in 1964, further to the abdication of the Grand Duchess Charlotte.

His Royal Highness, the Grand Duke Henri succeeds himself his father, the Grand Duke Jean in October 2000. He has since been occupying the throne with his wife, Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa, native of Cuba.

The Grand Duke Heir is Prince Guillaume, their elder son, accompanied with his wife the Grand Duchess Heiress, Princess Stéphanie, of Belgian origin.

Visit the Grand-Ducal Palace in Luxembourg city

The Chamber of Deputies and parliamentary elections

The Chamber of Deputies debates and votes on laws. It represents the legislative power.

The last parliamentary elections were held in October 2018. Luxembourg citizens were called to the polls to elect their 60 deputies for the next 5 years. The country is divided into 4 electoral districts: Central, North, South and East.

Following these elections, the political parties represented at the Chamber are:

  • Parti populaire chrétien-social (CSV) : 21 seats. Almost all of Luxembourg’s prime ministers come from the CSV, excluding Gaston Thorn (PM from 1974 to 1979) and Xavier Bettel (PM 2013-2018), both from the DP. Jean-Claude Juncker, CSV, President of the European Commission from 2014 to 2019, was Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013. Proximity with the Republicans in France and the CDU in Germany.
  • Democratic Party (DP): 12 seats. Centrist party with a liberal tendency. The DP is a member of the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats. Xavier Bettel the current Prime Minister belongs to this party.
  • Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party (LSAP): 10 seats. The LSAP participated in coalition governments in 1974-1979 and 2013-2018. The LSAP is a member of the Party of European Socialists.
  • Les Verts (déi gréng): 9 seats. Green Party, for the first time in a government with Xavier Bettel’s coalition government in 2013-2018
  • Alternativ Demokratesch Reformpartei (ADR): 4 seats. Conservative and populist party. Member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.
  • Déi Lénk: 2 seats. Member of the European Left Party
  • the Pirate Party: 2 seats. Following the European Pirate parties, it advocates democracy through state transparency and civil rights.

Luxembourg government

At the head of the government is named a Prime Minister, with a government of several ministers appointed by the Grand Duke. The government is in charge of preparing draft laws. Each minister is assigned one or more ministries.

The government resulting from the 2018 elections is a coalition government in continuity with the one formed in December 2013, following Jean-Claude Juncker’s departure from the European Commission and in office for nearly 19 years. The CSV, a Christian Social People’s Party, in power for nearly 35 years, is once again in opposition, despite the number of seats obtained in these last elections due to the coalition system.

The Prime Minister is Xavier Bettel, from the Democratic Party (DP) and allied in a three-party coalition with the LSAP and dei Greng.
16 Ministers make up the government, including:

  • Xavier Bettel (DP), Prime Minister since December 2013 and Minister of State. He is also in charge of Communication and Media, Cults, Digitalisation and Administrative Reform,
  • François Bausch (dei Greng) Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, Minister for Mobility and Public Works, Minister for Internal Security
  • Dan Kersch (LSAP), Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Sport, Minister for Labour, Employment and Social and Solidarity Economy,
  • Franz Fayot (LSAP), Minister of Economy, Minister of Cooperation and Solidarity Action
  • Paulette Lenert (LSAP), Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Minister for Consumer Protection, Minister for Health
  • Jean Asselborn (LSAP), Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Minister for Immigration and Asylum
  • Romain Schneider (LSAP), Minister for Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, Minister for Social Security
  • Sam Tanson (dei Greng), Minister of Justice, Minister of Culture
  • Pierre Gramegna (DP), Minister of Finance,
  • Claude Meisch (DP), Minister of National Education, Children and Youth, Minister of Higher Education and Research,
  • Corinne Cahen (DP), Minister for Family and Integration, Minister for the Greater Region
  • Taina Bofferding (LSAP), Minister for Equality between Men and Women, Minister of the Interior
  • Lex Delles (DP), Minister of Trousime, Minister of Middle Classes
  • Henri Kox (dei Greng), Minister of Housing, Minister for Defence, Minister for Internal Security

The municipalities of Luxembourg

The Luxembourg municipalities constitute autonomous administrative entities from a legal and budgetary point of view. Every municipality manages its local interests in complete autonomy, in respect of national directives.

At the head of every municipality, a mayor and his city council are elected for 6 years by the inhabitants of the municipality. The City Council, constituted of the mayor and his 2 aldermen, represents the executive power.

More information about elections in Luxembourg

Luxembourg, one of the founding countries of the European Union

Luxembourg is one of the 6 founder membres of the European Union. Some of its citizens became illustrious figures, like Robert Schuman, born in Luxembourg in 1886, one of the “founding fathers” of Europe. In 1952, the city of Luxembourg was the first workplace of the community institutions.

The Luxembourg capital, Luxembourg city, reaches the status of European capital in 1986 further to the fusion of the European institutions, just as Brussels and Strasbourg.

The city of Luxembourg nowadays hosts several institutions and European organs: the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund and several European Commission services. We moreover talk about the “European district” of Kirchberg.

Nowadays, we count among the Luxembourg residents some 1.

Today, Luxembourg residents include more than 10,000 European civil servants, including 3,700 for the European Commission.

However, in 2020, a mini-earthquake will shake the European world. Chafea, the Executive Agency for Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food, is leaving the Gasperich district where it has been operating for more than 10 years to be relocated to Brussels and then may be dissolved. 80 people are leaving the Grand Duchy.  

For some, this could be a sign that Luxembourg would gradually lose its status as the capital of the European Union, while the presence of the European institutions was acquired until 2015. It is also known that many European officials are reluctant to come to Luxembourg, which, despite an undeniable quality of life, unfortunately has excessively high rents and traffic problems.