PR Political Rights 38 40
CL Civil Liberties 59 60
Last Year's Score & Status
98 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected government. Political rights and civil liberties are generally respected. Ongoing concerns include insufficient government transparency and inadequate safeguards against conflicts of interest.

header2 Key Developments in 2020

  • In April, the Belgian conglomerate Mediahuis’s purchased the Saint-Paul group, the owner of the country’s largest daily newspaper, the Luxemburger Wort. Mediahuis announced plans to shift more coverage online, evidence of the growing prominence of online media in Luxembourg. Though the company claimed that the acquisition would result in no job losses, 70 Luxemburger Wort employees were let go in December, a move criticized by analysts as potentially weakening the country’s media environment.
  • Authorities implemented travel restrictions throughout 2020 to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government implemented a curfew and ordered businesses closed in March, and again in December. According to government statistics provided to the World Health Organization, over 46,700 people tested positive for coronavirus and 498 people died by year’s end.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The prime minister is the head of government and serves five-year terms. The leader of the majority coalition formed after parliamentary elections is appointed prime minister by the hereditary monarch, the grand duke, whose powers are largely ceremonial.

Incumbent prime minister Xavier Bettel of the Democratic Party (DP) was appointed to form a new government in October 2018 following that month’s parliamentary election. The new government, which took office that December, was based on the existing coalition of the DP, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP), and the Greens (DG). The election was viewed as credible.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The unicameral legislature, the Chamber of Deputies, consists of 60 members elected to five-year terms by proportional representation. In the October 2018 election, the DP led the ruling coalition parties with 12 seats, followed by the LSAP with 10 and the Green Party with 9. The main opposition party, the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), won 21 seats. The populist right-wing Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR) won 4 seats, while the Pirate Party and the Left each took 2. The contest was generally seen as free and fair, though the campaign was marked by some antisemitic vandalism of DP candidate posters.

Luxembourgers participated in the May 2019 European Parliament (EP) election; the DP won 21.4 percent of the vote, while the CSV won 21.1 percent, the DG won 18.9 percent, and the LSAP won 12.2 percent.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

The electoral laws and framework are considered fair, and they are generally implemented impartially. Voting is compulsory. In 2017, the government passed a law allowing postal ballots for all citizens.

A multiparty Constitutional Revision Committee completed its draft of a new constitution in 2018. The charter, which did not include major changes to the political system, would take effect only after it had been approved by the parliament and by the public in a referendum. The draft remained pending at the end of 2020.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

The political system is open to the establishment of new parties, which do not face undue obstacles in their formation or activities. Three parties have traditionally dominated politics: the CSV, historically aligned with the Catholic Church; the LSAP, a formerly radical but now center-left party representing the working class; and the DP, which favors free-market economic policies. Four smaller parties, the DG, the ADR, the Left, and the Pirate Party have also won representation. While constituting a party is relatively easy, the structure and size of electoral constituencies, as well as the 10 percent electoral threshold, favor larger parties.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

The country has a record of peaceful transfers of power between rival parties. Both the DP and the DG were in the opposition before forming the governing coalition with the LSAP in 2013. The CSV, which had played a leading role in most governments since 1945, was forced into opposition in 2013 for the first time since 1979, and it remained out of government following the 2018 election.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 4.004 4.004

Citizens are generally able to make political choices without undue interference from any democratically unaccountable groups. However, close links between the country’s financial center and its law-making elites is regularly a topic of concern for the opposition and outside observers.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 4.004 4.004

Women engage actively in politics, and the government has taken measures to encourage greater participation. A 2016 law mandates that at least 40 percent of each party’s electoral candidates be women; parties risk losing a portion of their public financing if they do not meet the quota. However, only 18 women held elected seats at the end of 2019, which accounts for 30 percent of Parliament. Citizens who belong to ethnic minorities and LGBT+ people enjoy full political rights and are free to participate in practice. In 2013, Prime Minister Bettel became the nation’s first openly gay person to hold his position.

About 49 percent of the population consists of foreign nationals, most of whom are citizens of other European Union (EU) member states, with Portugal accounting for the largest single contingent. The law allows naturalization and dual nationality, and children automatically gain citizenship when a parent is naturalized. Foreign residents are entitled to vote in municipal elections and EU foreigners can participate in EU elections. However, they are excluded from national elections. Notably, politicians of foreign origin remain rare in Luxembourg, despite the background of nearly half the population.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

The prime minister, cabinet, and parliament determine and implement the government’s policies without improper interference from unelected entities.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Corruption is not widespread in Luxembourg, and allegations of corruption are generally investigated and prosecuted. However, the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) has previously criticized the government for failing to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent graft. In addition, rules on accepting gifts, lobbying, and mitigating conflicts of interest after government officials leave office are lacking.

In January 2020, after a scandal broke out about mismanagement at the royal court, the government triggered a reform process that aimed at making the missions of the royal family more transparent. The main issue was the role the Grand duchess attributed to herself: without a constitutional right, she saw herself as a political actor more than a ceremonial representative.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

While the legislative process and government operations are largely transparent, there is no comprehensive freedom of information law in place, and in practice the media and civil society groups often have difficulty obtaining official information. Cabinet members are obligated to disclose any shares in companies that they own, but there are no penalties for those who do not cooperate.

In late November 2019, Luxembourg was one of 12 EU member states that blocked a proposed directive requiring firms to more fully disclose revenues and tax payments throughout the bloc. The directive was billed as an effort to reduce corporate tax avoidance within the EU.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the constitution and generally respected in practice. Luxembourg’s media market is regulated by the Independent Luxembourg Broadcasting Authority (ALIA). A single conglomerate, RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg (RTL), dominates broadcast radio and television, though numerous print, online, and foreign news sources are also available and present a broad range of views. Internet access is not restricted.

The written press has historically tended to align with traditional parties. In April 2020, the Belgian conglomerate Mediahuis’s purchased the Saint-Paul group, the owner of the country’s largest daily newspaper, the Luxemburger Wort. Mediahuis announced plans to shift more coverage online, evidence of the growing prominence of online media. Though Mediahuis claimed that the acquisition would result in no job losses, 70 Luxemburger Wort employees were let go in December, a move criticized by analysts as potentially weakening the country’s media environment.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of religion is largely respected in practice. The state has historically paid the salaries of clergy from a variety of Christian groups, but a 2016 law ended the practice for all clergy hired after that point. Under the law, the government continued to provide some funding to six major recognized religious communities, including the Muslim community, based on their size. Religious instruction in secondary and primary schools was phased out in 2016–17. In 2018, the parliament adopted legislation that banned face coverings in schools, medical facilities, public buildings, public transport, and retirement homes. The law was widely understood to be aimed at Muslims, though the wearing of such garments is extremely rare in the country.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is generally respected in practice.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of expression is largely respected, and individuals can voice their political views without fear of retribution.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the constitution and generally respected in practice.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are largely free to operate without any undue restrictions.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

Workers are free to organize in trade unions and bargain collectively. The right to strike is guaranteed once conciliation procedures are formally exhausted. Employers are subject to penalties for antiunion discrimination.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 4.004 4.004

Judicial independence is generally upheld. Judges are appointed by the grand duke and cannot be removed arbitrarily.

Parliament conducted ongoing discussions in 2020 regarding a constitutional amendment that strengthens the independence of judiciary by establishing a Council of Justice, competent to nominate candidates for all judicial posts prior to their formal appointment by the executive (and formally by the grand duke). Composed of nine members, the council would also develop ethical standards and act as a watchdog for judges.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 4.004 4.004

Due process is largely upheld in civil and criminal matters. Defendants have the right to a fair and public trial, and this right is generally respected. Police typically observe safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 4.004 4.004

There are no major threats to civilians’ physical security. Prison conditions and protections against the illegitimate use of force are adequate, and violent crime is rare.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, disability, age, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation is prohibited by law. The rights of LGBT+ people are generally respected.

In April 2020, Luxembourg accepted 11 unaccompanied underage asylum seekers from Greek refugee camps.

Women have benefited from reductions in the gender pay gap and an increase in their labor participation rate in recent years, though women still hold significantly fewer senior positions than men.

The Luxembourg government has placed an onerous language requirement public sector jobs and employment. Individuals in the public sector must speak German, French, and Luxembourgish fluently. However, very few official documents are in Luxembourgish, and exceptions to this requirement are made for high-level positions due to a lack of qualified candidates. The requirement funnels citizens into public sector positions, which are lucrative and secure, pushing immigrant workers into the unstable private sector in which there are other barriers to entry. Moreover, discrimination in the education system limits somewhat the economic potential of nonnationals.

Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because language requirements for public sector positions limit the ability of immigrant workers to participate in segments of the labor market.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

Individuals generally enjoy freedom of movement, and there are no significant restrictions on their ability to change their place of residence, employment, or institution of higher education. Authorities implemented travel restrictions throughout 2020 to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the government implemented a curfew and ordered businesses closed in March, and again in December. Restrictions varied throughout the year, depending on the rate of infection.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 4.004 4.004

The rights to own property and operate private businesses are legally protected and respected in practice.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 4.004 4.004

Individual freedoms on issues such as marriage and divorce are generally guaranteed. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2014, and same-sex couples have full adoption rights. Abortions are legal on request within the first trimester of pregnancy; later abortions require two doctors to determine that the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health. The authorities generally uphold laws and practices meant to address rape and domestic violence.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 4.004 4.004

The country’s residents largely enjoy equality of opportunity, and the government enforces legal protections against exploitative working conditions. Occasional cases of forced labor in the construction and food-service industries have been reported, especially among migrant workers.

On Luxembourg

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  • Global Freedom Score

    97 100 free