Luxembourg

Background

Luxembourg's history at a glance

The Congress of Vienna formed Luxembourg as a Grand Duchy in personal union with the Netherlands, which it remained until 1890. The Belgian revolution of 1830–1839 reduced Luxembourg's territory by more than half, as the predominantly francophone western part of the country was transferred to Belgium. Luxembourg was invaded and occupied by Germany during World War I, but was allowed to maintain its independence and political mechanisms.

The Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) has existed since 1921, except for the period 1940–44, when the Grand Duchy was subject to wartime occupation by Germany. During World War II, Luxembourg abandoned its policy of neutrality, when it joined the Allies in fighting Germany. It subsequently joined the NATO in 1949. In 1948 the Benelux Economic Union was inaugurated between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, becoming effective in 1960, and establishing the three countries as a single customs area in 1970. Luxembourg was one of the six founding members of the European Community (EC—now European Union—EU) in 1951.

The Christian Democratic Party (CSV) has been the dominant party in Luxembourg since World War I, and with the exception of the years 1974-1979 the party has been in government continuously. In the 1974 elections, CSV lost its dominance and a centre-left coalition between the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP) and the Democratic Party (DP) was formed under the premiership of Gaston Thorn. At the next general elections in 1979 CSV regained its strength and formed a coalition with DP. At the 1984 elections, CSV again managed to secure the largest number of seats, while DP lost considerable support. The DP recession was widely attributed to general dissatisfaction with an economic austerity programme introduced during the early 1980s, and with the rising level of unemployment. 1984 thus marked the beginning of three successive CSV-LSAP coalitions.

Politics in the new era

Luxembourg has a parliamentary form of government with a constitutional monarchy inherited by male-preference primogeniture. Under the constitution of 1868, executive power is exercised by the grand duke or grand duchess and the cabinet, which consists of a prime minister and several other ministers. The grand duke has the power to dissolve the legislature and reinstate a new one. In March 1998 Grand Duke Jean conferred broad constitutional powers upon his eldest son and heir, Prince Henri, permitting him to deputize for the Grand Duke in all official capacities, including the signing of legislation. On October 7 2000, Prince Henri succeeded his father as head of state.

Following great electoral stability in the 1989 and 1994 elections, DP remained in opposition until 1999 when the party again managed to increase its representation and form a coalition with the CSV. The coalition lasted five years until DP resumed its opposition position after the 2004 general election and a CSV/LSAP-coalition again resumed power under Jean-Claude Juncker.

On July 10 2005, Luxembourg held a national referendum (the first since 1936) on the EU constitutional treaty, which had finally been approved by the EU in mid-2004. Although there were concerns that the proposed constitution was not wholly advantageous for the smaller member states of the EU, the vast majority of political parties in Luxembourg supported the document and Juncker threatened to resign if the electorate rejected the treaty. Opposition to the treaty grew when the French and Dutch, at their referendums, held in May and June respectively, voted against its ratification. None the less, the draft treaty was approved by some 56.5 percent of the Luxembourg electorate.

Sources

Heidar, K. and Berntzen E. (1998). Vesteuropeisk politikk : Partier, regjeringsmakt, styreform. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Recent History (Luxembourg), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Bergen. Retrieved 04 September 2006 from http://www.europaworld.com/entry/lu.is.4