Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker submitted his resignation on July 11, 2013, after losing parliamentary support in the wake of a scandal over alleged misconduct by Luxembourg’s intelligence service, including wiretapping and bribery. Prime minister since 1995, and from 2005 to January 2013 chairman of the Eurogroup—consisting of the finance ministers of the eurozone member nations—Juncker was the longest-serving European Union (EU) head of government when he resigned, and had had disproportionate influence in EU affairs.
In October general elections, Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) took 33.7 percent of the vote and lost three seats in parliament, its worst showing since 1999. However, it remained the largest party. In December, Xavier Bettel of the Democratic Party took over as prime minister, replacing Juncker, who had remained in office with his cabinet until then.
Political Rights: 39 / 40 (-1) [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12
Luxembourg’s 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. The legislature chooses the prime minister. Voting is compulsory for Luxembourg’s citizens. Foreigners constitute more than a third of the population.
In parliamentary elections on October 20, the CSV captured 23 seats, down from 26 in the 2009 election, while the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) and the Democratic Party (DP) each won 13 seats. The Greens took 6 seats, and smaller parties hold the remaining 5 seats. The elections were held seven months early as a result of the collapse of Juncker’s government. On October 25, Grand Duke Henri asked DP leader Xavier Bettel, mayor of the city of Luxembourg, to form a government. Bettel was sworn in as prime minister December 4 as the head of a three-way coalition with the LSAP and the Greens joining his DP, excluding the CSV and ending Juncker’s years in power.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16
The political system is open to the establishment of new parties. There are three traditionally strong parties: 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. The CSV has governed since 1945, except for a brief hiatus in 1975–79.
C. Functioning of Government: 11 / 12 (-1)
The government is largely free from corruption. However, Juncker resigned in response to the disclosure of abuses by the State Intelligence Service, including secret recordings of the conversations of politicians and taking of payments in return for access to local officials. A parliamentary review found that Juncker, to whom the intelligence service reported, had failed to control the service or report misconduct to lawmakers. He was forced to step down when the LSAP, the junior party in his coalition, withdrew its support for the government.
Luxembourg was ranked 11 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. As one of the world’s largest offshore financial centers, Luxembourg has been criticized for its bank secrecy rules. In April 2013, the government agreed to comply with the EU Savings Directive, changing its rules to allow the exchange of banking information with other EU governments as of 2015. In November, an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development review found that Luxembourg was failing to meet international standards for tax transparency.
Civil Liberties: 60 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 16 / 16
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution. A single conglomerate, RTL, dominates broadcast radio and television. Newspapers generally represent a broad range of opinion. Internet access is not restricted.
Although Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, there is no state religion, and the state pays the salaries of clergy from a variety of Christian sects. Islamic clergy, however, are not supported. In October 2012, a government-commissioned report said that 95.6 percent of state funding for religious institutions went to the Catholic Church, and recommended a more equitable distribution for other faiths. School children must choose to study either the Roman Catholic religion or ethics; most choose the former. Academic freedom is respected.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12
Freedoms of assembly and association are protected, and nongovernmental organizations operate freely. Luxembourgers may organize in trade unions, and approximately 40 percent of the workforce is unionized. The right to strike is constitutionally guaranteed.
F. Rule of Law: 16 / 16
The judiciary is independent, though judges are still appointed by the grand duke. Detainees are treated humanely in police stations and prisons.
Luxembourg’s Muslim minority, mainly of Bosnian origin, faces no official hostility. A 2011 law increased penalties for hate speech. A July report by the European Asylum Support Office said Luxembourg rejected 98 percent of first-time asylum applications, the highest rejection rate in the EU. Luxembourg agreed to accept 60 Syrian asylum seekers in September 2013, although the government’s plan to house them in an isolated former mental asylum drew criticism from an advocacy group for immigrant workers.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 16 / 16
Luxembourg protects private property rights, scoring 90.0 out of 100 on the Index of Economic Freedom.
While women comprise more than half of the labor force, they are underrepresented at the highest levels of government; 17 women currently serve in the 60-member parliament, and only four hold seats in the 15-member cabinet. While the law does not technically allow for abortion on demand, women can legally have abortions if in “distress.” The Chamber of Deputies in November 2012 approved legislation that allowed abortions in a greater number of cases while maintaining current penalties for unapproved abortions. According to the 2013 U.S. State Department report on human trafficking, Luxembourg has not yet implemented comprehensive protections for victims of trafficking.
Same-sex couples have the right to registered partnerships. The new coalition agreement includes same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, both of which had previously been stalled in the parliament; no bill had been passed by year’s end. In December, Bettel became the nation’s first openly gay prime minister.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year