Luxembourg | Freedom House

Freedom in the World



Freedom in the World 2006

2006 Scores



Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


For the first half of 2005, Luxembourg held the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU), which faced the failure of a proposed new constitution in two referendums, and disagreements on the EU's budget (which Luxembourg tried without success to overcome).

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was established in 1815, after the Napoleonic wars. Following a brief merger with Belgium, it reemerged with its current borders in 1839. The country has always faced the possibility of domination by its neighbors- it was occupied by Germany during both world wars-and it abandoned neutrality in favor of joining NATO in 1949. After joining in an economic union with Belgium and the Netherlands in 1948, Luxembourg became one of the six founding members of the European Community (now the EU) in 1957. Because it has a small, open economy, Luxembourg's relationship with the EU is highly important to its politics; it adopted the euro as its currency in 1999. A former prime minister, Jacques Santer, served as president of the EU's commission from 1995 to 1999.

Over the course of 2003, the opinion-poll ratings of the center-right Democratic Party (PD) fell, while the opposition Socialist Worker's Party of Luxembourg (POSL) rose. It was therefore not surprising when the PD did poorly in the general election of June 2004, losing 5 of its 15 seats in parliament. The POSL gained a seat, holding 14 seats in the new parliament, and joined Jean-Claude Juncker's Christian Social Party (CS) in government as a junior partner.

Luxembourg is a strong proponent of greater European integration through the EU. In 2004, the 25 member states of the EU finalized a new draft constitution for the EU and simultaneously chose a new president for the European Commission, which serves as the EU's executive and civil service. The president is chosen unanimously by the heads of government of the EU's 25 members; Juncker's name was often mentioned as a candidate for this job. However, he kept his promise to remain prime minister if his party won the 2004 election.

For the first six months of 2005, Luxembourg held the EU's rotating presidency, which is responsible for chairing meetings and guiding new policy initiatives. Those six months were extremely difficult for pro-European countries such as Luxembourg, however. The draft constitution failed decisively in referendums in both France and the Netherlands, two founding EU members. Juncker, as the EU's president, attempted to continue to push the referendum process, saying that other countries should continue to ratify while some way was found to seek French and Dutch approval in later referendums. However, though Luxembourg itself voted yes on the constitution in a July 10 referendum, many other countries delayed the ratification process indefinitely, leaving the constitution effectively dead. In addition, the EU's regular summit meeting in Luxembourg in June was marred by a bitter argument about the EU's multiyear budgetary framework, with Luxembourg trying and failing to bridge the gap between France and Britain.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Citizens of Luxembourg can change their government demo-cratically. The head of state is the unelected Grand Duke Henri, whose powers are largely ceremonial. The unicameral legislature consists of 60 deputies elected by proportional representation. The legislature chooses the prime minister. Voting is compulsory for all who are registered. Residents from EU countries may vote after six years' residency but are not obliged to do so. Non-EU residents may not vote, and foreigners constitute a third of Luxembourg's population.

The political party system is open to the rise of new parties, as seen by the growth of the Action Committee for Democracy and Pension Justice (ADR), originally a one-issue party focusing on higher pensions, which first had deputies elected in 1989 and is now a significant party. There are three traditionally strong parties in Luxembourg's politics: the CS, traditionally aligned with the Catholic Church; the PD, which favors free-market economic policies and a smaller welfare state; and the POSL, a formerly radical but now center-left party representing the working class. The current government, elected in 2004, is a coalition of the PCS, which has taken part in almost all governments in Luxembourg's modern history, and the POSL.

The government is largely free from corruption. Luxembourg was ranked 13 out of 159 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and Luxembourg has a vibrant media environment. A single media conglomerate, RTL, dominates the broadcast radio and television market, and its broadcasts are popular in Luxembourg's neighboring countries. Newspapers represent a broad range of opinion. Internet access is unrestricted.

Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, but there is no state religion, and the state pays the salaries of ministers from a variety of religions. Students may choose to study either the Roman Catholic religion or ethics; most choose the former. Protestant education is available on demand. Academic freedom is respected.

Freedom of assembly and association is protected. Civic groups and nongovernmental organizations may operate freely, and Luxembourgers may organize in trade unions. The right to strike is constitutionally guaranteed.

The judiciary is independent, but judges are appointed by the grand duke. Prisoners are humanely treated in police stations and prisons.

Luxembourg's Muslim minority, mainly of Bosnian origin, faces no official hostility but does experience some mild social racism.

In part because of Luxembourg's conservative social mores, women comprise just under 40 percent of the labor force, and there remains a significant gap between men's and women's wages. Though abortion law does not technically provide for abortion on demand, a woman who has had an abortion while under "distress" is considered not to have violated the law, and "distress" is interpreted liberally. Women are underrepresented in the highest levels of government and business.