Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In June 2009 parliamentary elections, the Christian Social Party’s Jean-Claude Juncker secured a fourth term and formed a coalition government with the opposition Socialist Worker’s Party of Luxembourg in July. Amid lingering economic problems, Luxembourg faced continued criticism over its bank secrecy laws.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was established in 1815 after the Napoleonic wars. Following a brief merger with Belgium, it acquired its current borders in 1839. The country was occupied by Germany during both world wars, and it abandoned neutrality to join NATO in 1949. After forming an economic union with Belgium and the Netherlands in 1948, Luxembourg became one of the six founding members of the European Community—now the European Union (EU)—in 1957; it adopted the euro currency in 1999.
In 2004 elections, the opposition Socialist Worker’s Party ofLuxembourg (POSL) replaced the center-right Democratic Party (PD) as the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker’s Christian Social Party (PCS).
Parliamentary elections were held in June 2009 alongside elections for the European Parliament. The PCS gained two seats for a total of 26, and the POSL lost 1 seat for a total of 13. The PD followed with 9 seats, the Green Party with 7, the Action Committee for Democracy and Pension Justice with 4, and the Left alliance with 1. Juncker remained as prime minister for the 15th consecutive year—the longest tenure of any EU head of state—and formed a coalition government with the POSL in July.
Luxembourg struggled with continued financial hardship in 2009, as the country experienced a 4 percent contraction in GDP during the year. Juncker resigned from his dual role as finance minister in July, but planned to continue as chairman of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers until the end of his term in December 2010. Amid continued pressure to ease bank secrecy rules, Juncker criticized the EU banking structure, especially its focus on Luxembourg and Switzerland during the financial crisis, and demanded that equal pressure be applied to the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
In July, the PCS announced the creation of an international section for its French-speaking members, the first time a political party has been restructured for members who do not speak Luxembourgish. Government documentation remains largely available only in Luxembourgish and German.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties:
Luxembourg is an electoral democracy. The head of state is the unelected Grand Duke Henri, whose powers are largely ceremonial. The unicameral legislature, the Chamber of Deputies, consists of 60 members elected by proportional representation to five-year terms. Following a December 2008 constitutional amendment, the Chamber no longer requires the Grand Duke’s approval to pass bills into law. The legislature chooses the prime minister. Voting is compulsory for Luxembourg’s citizens. Citizens of EU countries may vote after six years’ residency but are not required to do so; residents from non-EU countries may not vote. Foreigners constitute over a third of Luxembourg’s population.
The political system is open to the rise of new parties. There are three traditionally strong parties: the PCS, historically aligned with the Catholic Church; the POSL, a formerly radical but now center-left party representing the working class; and the PD, which favors free-market economic policies.
The government is largely free from corruption. Luxembourg was ranked 12 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution, and Luxembourg has a vibrant media environment. A single conglomerate, RTL, dominates broadcast radio and television, and its programming is popular in 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 clergy from a variety of sects. 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.
Freedoms of assembly and association are protected. Civic groups and nongovernmental organizations operate freely. In 2009, EU-wide protests over falling milk prices turned violent in Luxembourg, as clashes between farmers and police caused injuries on both sides. Luxembourgers may organize in trade unions, and a large proportion of the workforce does so. The right to strike is constitutionally guaranteed.
The judiciary is independent, but judges are appointed by the grand duke. Detainees are treated humanely in police stations and prisons, though overcrowding was reported at Schrassig Prison in 2009.
Luxembourg’s Muslim minority, mainly of Bosnian origin, faces no official hostility but some mild social discrimination. In 2007, the government agreed to give Muslim leaders the same recognition and financial support enjoyed by religious leaders of other faiths.
In part because of Luxembourg’s conservative social mores, women comprise just under 50 percent of the labor force, and a significant gap remains between men’s and women’s wages. Women are underrepresented in the highest levels of government; 15 women currently serve in the 60-member parliament, and only 4 hold seats in the 15-member cabinet.Though the law does not technically allow abortion on demand, a woman who has had an abortion while in “distress” is considered not to have violated the law, and “distress” is interpreted liberally.