Luxemberg Government - History

Luxemberg Government - History

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Luxembourg has a parliamentary form of government with a constitutional monarchy by inheritance. Executive power is exercised by the Grand Duke and the Council of Government (cabinet),which consists of a Prime Minister and several other ministers. The Prime Minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the most seats in parliament.

Legislative power is vested in the Chamber of Deputies, elected directly to 5-year terms. A second body, the Council of State, composed of representatives appointed by the Grand Duke, advises the Chamber of Deputies in drafting legislation.

Grand DukeHenri,
Prime MinisterJuncker, Jean-Claude
Vice Prime Min.Polfer, Lydie
Min. of Agriculture, Viticulture, & Rural DevelopmentBoden, Fernand
Min. of Civil Service & Administrative ReformPolfer, Lydie
Min. of CommunicationsBiltgen, Francois
Min. of Cooperation Humanitarian Action, & DefenseGoerens, Charles
Min. of CultsBiltgen, Francois
Min. of Culture, Higher Education, & ResearchHennicot-Schoepges, Erna
Min. of EconomyGrethen, Henri
Min. of Education & Vocational TrainingHennicot-Schoepges, Erna
Min. of EmploymentBiltgen, Francois
Min. of EnvironmentGoerens, Charles
Min. of Family, Social Solidarity, & YouthJacobs, Marie-Josee
Min. of FinanceJuncker, Jean-Claude
Min. of Foreign Affairs & External CommercePolfer, Lydie
Min. of HealthWagner, Carlo
Min. of InteriorWolter, Michel
Min. of JusticeFrieden, Luc
Min. of Middle Class, Housing, & TourismBoden, Fernand
Min. of National Education, Professional Training, & SportsBrasseur, Anne
Min. of Promotion of WomenJacobs, Marie-Josee
Min. of Public WorksHennicot-Schoepges, Erna
Min. of Relations with ParliamentBiltgen, Francois
Min. of Social SecurityWagner, Carlo
Min. of StateJuncker, Jean-Claude
Min. of TransportationGrethen, Henri
Min. of Treasury and the BudgetFrieden, Luc
Sec. of State for the EnvironmentBerger, Eugene
Sec. of State for Public Function & Administrative ReformSchaack, Joseph
Chief of Defense StaffLenz, Guy, Col.
Chmn., Luxembourg Central BankMersch, Yves
Ambassador to the USConzemius, Arlette
Permanent Representative to the UN, New YorkWurth, Hubert


The history of the State Intelligence Service (Service de Renseignement de l'État, or SRE) dates back to 1960, although it has evolved in response to the challenges of the past six decades. Its remit, operating methods, capabilities and resources as well as oversight mechanisms have all been adapted to changes in the nature of the threats to the country, technological developments and the SRE's legal framework. To fulfil its mission to anticipate risks and protect the security of the state and its citizens, the SRE must today deal with threats that are increasingly scattered and diverse, hard to identify and extremely volatile.

1960: first steps

In 1960 the global order was characterised by 'the balance of terror' between the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), with their more or less comparable military capabilities.

In the middle of the Cold War, on July 30, 1960, Luxembourg's membership of NATO prompted the government to set up a genuine intelligence service, active on Luxembourg soil to protect the state's external security. Initially, the intelligence agency's role consisted of checking whether individuals with access to sensitive information were trustworthy, accrediting them according to NATO criteria, uncovering any foreign spies active in the Grand Duchy, and liaising with the secret services of other alliance member countries.

In its early years the agency used the same intelligence methods as other allied countries at the time, obtaining information through surveillance, phone tapping and recruiting informers. During this period the agency unmasked several spies operating for Eastern European countries in Luxembourg.

The highly secret Stay Behind network

Following the launch of the intelligence service, a special section was given responsibility for overseeing the activities of the Luxembourg branch of the Stay Behind network, which consisted of local units throughout the countries in Western Europe and who each set up their own framework for the actions of the members of their network. They were responsible for providing information from behind enemy lines in the event of an invasion by Warsaw Pact forces. The Luxembourg unit consisted of a dozen civilians unconnected to each other who were trained by the service in handling encrypted telecommunication equipment and in intelligence techniques, as well as in smuggling people into and out of occupied territory. (For further information please refer also to the booklet "La Guerre froide au Luxembourg" edited by the Musée national d'histoire et d’art - ISBN 978-2-87985-389-5.)

Luxembourg's Stay Behind unit was dissolved in 1989. However, it resurfaced in the public eye in Luxembourg as a twist in the Bommeleeër affair, the still-unsolved series of 20 bomb attacks in the country between 1984 and 1986, mainly targeting public infrastructure.

On February 27, 2008, then Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker wrote to Charles Goerens, chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of oversight of the State Intelligence Service, reminding the committee of its powers under Article 15(3) of the law of June 15, 2004 to examine specific cases of the Intelligence Service.

Juncker invited the committee to examine the following issues:

  • Management by the SRE of the Stay Behind unit from launch until its disbanding.
  • The bomb attacks of 1985 and 1986 and the role played by the SRE in the investigation into the identity of the bombers.
  • The truth or otherwise of allegations of links between the Stay Behind unit and the bombings.

The committee, which had full access to the SRE's archives, also heard testimony from former Prime Minister Jacques Santer and chief state prosecutor Robert Biever, as well as SRE director Marco Mille, his predecessor Charles Hoffmann, and members of the Stay Behind network in the 1980s.

1982: new controls over surveillance

The law of November 26, 1982 complemented the code of criminal procedure through articles 88-1 to 88-4, regulating the use of technology to monitor all types of communication, whether postal, telephonic or other. The SRE's use of special investigative methods was henceforth subject to a procedure detailed by the legislation.

2004: first major reform of the intelligence service

At the beginning of this century, the geopolitical context changed. Relations between the US and its Western allies with the Russian Federation, successor to the Soviet Union, broadly eased following the fall of the Berlin Wall. In contrast to the threat posed by a hostile bloc of states during the Cold War, those arising since the beginning of the 21st century have been much more diverse.

The spectre of Islamic terrorism has haunted the world since the attacks in the US of September 11, 2001. The political authorities sought to involve the intelligence service in the efforts to prevent terrorist attacks on national territory and foster the creation of "a modern secret service adapted to the demands of our era and compatible with foreign and allied services". (see also the Report by the Committee of the Institutions of the constitutional revision of the Chamber of Deputies, May13, 2004 on the draft law 5133 on the organisation of the State’s Intelligence Service)

The legislation of June 15, 2004 sought to:

  • adapt the responsibilities of the agency to the changing threats to the country
  • better define its resources, its staff and its access to information
  • describe operational methods without compromising the secret nature of its missions
  • and institute a parliamentary oversight system to complement the service’s existing governance provisions.

Through the law, the government implemented an in-depth reform of the agency and strengthened its resources, especially in terms of staff.

The law of July 5, 2016: ethics, resources and oversight

In November 2012, the media revealed the existence of a secret recording by the then director of the SRE of one of his meetings with Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. The Chamber of Deputies reacted by creating a committee of inquiry to "examine the operational methods of the Intelligence Service since it was set up, in order to verify their legality under the legislation in force at the time to report to the Chamber of Deputies and to draw the conclusions as soon as possible (…)".

Parliament subsequently expanded the remit of the committee of inquiry to the agency's organisation and working methods. In its report, published on July 5, 2013, the committee called for urgent reform of the legislation underpinning the SRE's organisation.

The episode prompted public debate about the scope of surveillance conducted by the SRE during the Cold War, and a significant number of individuals demanded to know whether the agency was holding files on them and, if so, what they contained. Between December 2012 and August 2018, more than 700 requests for access were addressed to the former supervisory authority set up under the article 17 of the legislation of August 2002 on the processing of personal data.

The parliamentary committee recommended commissioning experts to analyse the SRE's historical archives in order to provide a better understanding of the material they contain. A team of two researchers was appointed to examine the archives following the call for tender in 2016 which was launched on the basis of article 3 of the law of July 23, 2016 putting in place a special status for certain personal data processed by the SRE.

The programme of the new government that took office at the end of 2013 stated that the SRE’s legal missions should be redefined in line with the conclusions of the parliamentary inquiry committee's report, with all forms of surveillance with a political connotation being banned and a detailed legal framework put in place to govern the agency's operational methods.

The aim was to provide the reformed agency with a more effective legal foundation, as well as resources capable of meeting existing and future operational requirements, and governance and oversight provisions appropriate in a democratic state.

The law of July 5, 2016 was broadly based on the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry committee, establishing a national intelligence service with a clear legal framework and appropriate supervision mechanisms and procedures. (More information on the various levels of supervision of the SRE appear in the section, Oversight of the Intelligence Service).

The legislation defines the methods to be used for the collection of intelligence, subject to strict conditions and precise criteria, and following the principles of legitimacy, proportionality and subsidiarity. (For more details on these principles, see the section, The SRE).

History of Luxembourg

The capital of Luxembourg takes its name from a small castle, Lucilinburhuc, built by Count Sigefroi in 963, which gave birth to the city, the County and then, in 1353, the Duchy of Luxembourg. Over the centuries, the small castle became one of the most powerful fortresses in Europe in the 19th century, and was even described as the “Gibraltar of the North”.

The County passed successively from the hands of the Holy Germanic Empire at its origin, to the Netherlands with Philip the Good Duke of Burgundy in 1443, to the Habsburgs of Spain in 1555 with the abdication of Charles V, then to France in 1659 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees. It was at this time that the Vauban fortifications were built.
In 1697, the County returned to Spain, whose War of Succession gave Luxembourg to Austria in 1715, then to France following the blockade of the Revolutionary troops in 1795.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna returned Luxembourg, then Grand Duchy, to the Netherlands. With the Treaty of London in 1839, Luxembourg acquired its independence and its current form, part of which was given to Belgium (the province of Belgian Luxembourg).

With the passing of the centuries and the attackers, the original fortress became stronger. It became known as the “Gibraltar of the North”, protected by 3 fortified belts and 24 forts. A huge network of 23 km of underground galleries dug into the rock, sheltered the soldiers and horses, but above all allowed them to survive despite the assaults thanks to the underground kitchens, bakeries and slaughterhouses. Following Luxembourg’s independence in 1839, the fortress was evacuated and dismantled. The fortifications were razed to the ground in 1867, to be replaced by new developments such as the Municipal Garden.

“Mir wölle bleiwe wat mir sin” – “We want to remain what we are”

Luxembourg’s motto testifies of its will of independence towards countries having annexed it and its will to keep its national identity.

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Interesting Luxembourg facts

This post is part of a series of fun facts posts I'm doing for every country I have articles about here on the blog. Given their nature, these posts are research-based and even though a lot of time has gone into them, it's still possible a mistake has snuck in. If you see something that looks incorrect, please let me know at wanderer [at] and I'll look into it. Thanks!

1. The country’s name originated from the Lucilinburhuc (“little fortress”) castle bought by Siegfried, count of Ardennes, in 963 C.E., which marked the foundation of Luxembourg.

2. Luxembourg is the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world with a Grand Duke as head of state.

3. Grand Duke Jean ruled for 36 years until his son, Henri, succeeded him in 2000.

4. The Prime Minister is the head of government.

5. Luxembourg’s current Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, was the first gay EU leader to marry. He married his partner, Gauthier Destenay, in 2015.

6. Luxembourg is a landlocked country bordered by Belgium to the West, France to the South and Germany to the East.

7. It has the largest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the world in 2014 at $111,716 based on the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Report in April 2015.

8. The entire country’s population is approximately 525,000 and 43% of which are foreign residents. It has the highest number of expats among European countries.

9. The RTL Group, Europe’s largest entertainment network, is based in Luxembourg. It has interests in 55 TV channels and 29 radio stations worldwide.

10. There are three official languages: German, French, and Lëtzebuergesch (Luxembourgish). German and French are primarily used for administrative purposes and official written communication while Luxembourgish is used in everyday conversations. In school, everybody has to learn German beginning in first grade, French at the ending of second grade and English in 8th grade (Thanks for the info, Cathy!)

11. There are only two universities: University of Luxembourg and Sacred Heart University Luxembourg.

12. Luxembourg is among the twelve founding member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

13. Luxembourg was also among the six founders of the European Union together with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

14. Immigrants and cross-border employees comprise 70% of the country’s workforce.

15. The City of Luxembourg—its Old Quarters and Fortifications—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

16. June 23 is Luxembourg’s National Day, which also commemorates the birthday of Grand Duchess Charlotte who ruled for nearly 50 years. (The Grand Duchess was actually born on January 23, 1896, but the holiday was moved to June due to more favorable weather conditions.)

17. The country’s motto is “Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin” meaning “We want to remain what we are”.

18. Skype’s corporate headquarters, as well as the European headquarters of Amazon, Paypal, Rakuten and Rovi Corp. are based in Luxembourg because it is a known strong financial center and tax haven.

19. Based on 2015 data, Luxembourg ranks second in the world with the highest monthly minimum wage at $2,468 (based on a 40-hour work week). Australia ranks first at $2,863.

20. One of the country’s most famous attractions is the Bock Casemates, a 21-kilometer underground tunnel network.

21. The estimated average life expectancy is 82 years based on the US Central Intelligence Agency’s 2015 figures.

22. Included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Dancing Procession of Echternach is an old religious tradition wherein thousands of pilgrims gather on Whit Tuesday to take part in a hopping/skipping procession in honor of St. Willibrord.

23. Elisabeth, Duchess of Luxembourg, sold Luxembourg to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, in 1443.

24. The Bourscheid Castle is the largest among the 75 castles in the country that still stand today.

25. The dominant religion is Roman Catholicism.

26. The Moselle valley is known for producing excellent wines from nine grape varieties: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Auxerrois, Rivaner, Elbling and Chardonnay.

27. Crémant de Luxembourg, a high quality sparkling wine produced in the traditional way like Champagne, is another specialty from Moselle. France and Burgundy also makes this kind of wine but Luxembourg clearly produces the best variety winning 22 golds in the recent Crémant Awards—24th Concours National des Crémants—held in 2015.

28.Bouneshclupp, a green bean soup, is one of Luxembourg’s specialties usually served with Gromperekichelcher (potato pancakes), Rendfleeschbritt (Beef broth with vermicelli) and Gromperenzopp (a potato soup with leeks, egg yolks, and cream).

29. Gromperekichelcher – potato pancakes made from potatoes, onions, parsley, egg, and flour – is a national snack.

30. Pork is normally served in the form of ham. Judd mat Gaardebounen, smoked pork collar with broad or Fava beans, is another famous Luxembourgish dish.

31. Friture de la Moselle is a popular specialty made from small fried fish from the Moselle River.

32. Another traditional dish, The “Luxembourg Menu”, is a meat platter of cooked and smoked hams, pâté, and sausage, served with hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and fresh tomatoes.

33. Quetsch is a traditional alcoholic drink made from plum.

34. It is customary to bring a box of chocolates or flowers when invited to someone’s home.

35. Flowers should be given in odd numbers except 13, which is considered unlucky.

36. Chrysanthemums are considered funeral flowers.

37. It is illegal to let your dog defecate within the city hence, dog poo bag dispensers are readily available and the bags even have printed instructions on them for proper disposal.

38. Even though the cost of living is generally high, Luxembourg’s petrol is one of the cheapest in the EU.

39. Main industries that drive the country’s economy are iron and steel, aluminum, glass, rubber, chemicals, telecommunications, engineering and tourism.

40. ArcelorMittal, the world’s top steel-producing company, is based in Luxembourg.

And that's it! I hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Luxembourg :-)

Luxembourg History

On July 11, 2013, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker resigned. Juncker was the longest-serving head of government in the European Union and led the euro finance ministers group until early 2013. Juncker said he decided to resign after his socialist party coalition asked for early elections.

Juncker had been recently implicated in a spying probe. On July 5, 2013, Parliament was sent a report that said Juncker had failed to inform lawmakers of "irregularities and supposed illegalities" by the State Intelligence Service. Early elections were set for October 2013.

Early general elections were held on October 20, 2013. Juncker's Christian Social People's Party lost three seats, but still remained the biggest party in the Chamber of Deputies, keeping 23 of 60 seats. However, it was the party's worst election since 1999. Immediately following the election, Juncker's opponents worked to form a coalition, but a new prime minister had not been named yet.

Five days after the election, Grand Duke Henri bypassed Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and named Xavier Bettel, the current Mayor of Luxembourg City, ?formateur? responsible for organizing a coalition government. On December 4, 2013, Bettel was sworn in as prime minister.

Luxembourg Government

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary following elections to the Chamber of Deputies, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the monarch deputy prime minister appointed by the monarch prime minister and deputy prime minister are responsible to the Chamber of Deputies

Citizenship Criteria:

citizenship by birth: limited to situations where the parents are either unknown, stateless, or when the nationality law of the parents' state of origin does not permit acquisition of citizenship by descent when the birth occurs outside of national territory

citizenship by descent: at least one parent must be a citizen of Luxembourg

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 7 years

Legal System:


Legislative Branch:

description: unicameral Chamber of Deputies or Chambre des Deputes (60 seats members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by party-list proportional representation vote members serve 5-year terms) note - a 21-member Council of State appointed by the Grand Duke on the advice of the prime minister serves as an advisory body to the Chamber of Deputies

elections: last held on 14 October 2018 (next to be held by October 2023)

election results: percent of vote by party - CSV 28.3%, LSAP 17.6%, DP 16.9%, Green Party 15.1%, ADR 8.3%, Pirate Party 6.4%, The Left 5.5%, other 1.9% seats by party - CSV 21, DP 12, LSAP 10, Green Party 9, ADR 4, Pirate Party 2, The Left 2 composition - men 46, women 14, percent of women 23.3%

Judicial Branch:

highest court(s): Superior Court of Justice includes Court of Appeal and Court of Cassation (consists of 27 judges on 9 benches) Constitutional Court (consists of 9 members)

judge selection and term of office: judges of both courts appointed by the monarch for life

subordinate courts: district and local tribunals and courts

Regions or States:

Political Parties and Leaders:

Alternative Democratic Reform Party or ADR [Jean SCHOOS]

Christian Social People's Party or CSV [Marc SPAUTZ]

Democratic Party or DP [Corinne CAHEN]

Green Party [Francoise FOLMER and Christian KMIOTEK]

Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party or LSAP [Claude HAAGEN]

The Left (dei Lenk/la Gauche) [Central Committee]

International Law Organization Participation:

International Organization Participation:

Diplomatic Representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Sylvie LUCAS (since 16 September 2016)

chancery: 2200 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 265-4171 through 72

consulate(s) general: New York, San Francisco

Diplomatic Representation from US:

US chief of mission: Ambassador David MCKEAN (since 14 April 2016)

embassy: 22 Boulevard Emmanuel Servais, L-2535 Luxembourg City

mailing address: American Embassy Luxembourg, Unit 1410, APO AE 09126-1410 (official mail) American Embassy Luxembourg, PSC 9, Box 9500, APO AE 09123 (personal mail)

Is Luxembourg’s National Debt Growing?

Despite the fact that Luxembourg has enough assets that it could cash in to cover government costs, the country has run a national debt for many years.

For the early years of this century, the country ran a national debt that was equal to about 7.5% of its GDP.

The global financial crisis of 2008 had a big impact on the national debt of Luxembourg — the debt level doubled in 2008 and then continued to rise up in stages to a peak debt to GDP ratio of 23.7% in 2013. After that, the national debt reduced as a percentage of GDP up until 2017 when it rose back up to 2013 levels.

The government of Luxembourg has consistently run annual budget surpluses since 2013. This helped to bring down the national debt up to 2017.

The country’s national debt rose in 2017 even though the government ran a surplus in that year, which means that it had money to spare and didn’t need to borrow.

Source: OECD (2019), Country Fact Sheet Luxembourg, Government at a Glance 2019 (accessed on 12/13/20)

One reason that a country’s debt-to-GDP ratio could rise without the government borrowing any more money is if its GDP falls. However, the country’s GDP rose in 2017.

These factors show that the national debt of Luxembourg rose in 2017 not because the government needed to borrow money, but because one of the other elements in the Eurostat calculations of national debt rose — obligations to EU institutions.

A debt-to-GDP ratio of around 30% in 2020 is largely due to the COVID-19 crisis which can potentially push Luxembourg into a recession.

Favorable Tax Deals

The top rate for companies operating in Luxembourg is 24.94%. This consists of a 17% corporate tax rate, a municipal business tax of 6.75% and a 1.19% contribution to an employment fund.    

However, documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed hundreds of multinational corporations had entered into tax agreements with Luxembourg that allowed them to pay an effective tax rate less than 1%. The documents, known as the Luxembourg Leaks, showed that FedEx Corp established two affiliates in Luxembourg for the purpose of transferring earnings from its operations in Mexico, France and Brazil to the company's affiliates in Hong Kong. Luxembourg agreed to tax the income at a rate of 0.25%, leaving 99.75% of the transfers tax-free.  

Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

The experience of invasion and occupation during the war led to a shift in Luxembourg's stance on neutrality. ⎩] Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Brussels with other western European powers on 17 March 1948 as part of the initial European postwar security cooperation and in a move that foreshadowed Luxembourg's membership in NATO. Luxembourg also began greater military co-operation with Belgium after the war, training soldiers together and even sending a joint continent to fight in the Korean War in 1950. [ citation needed ]

Following the war, Luxembourgish troops took part in the occupation of West Germany, contributing troops that were part of the force in the French Zone, beginning in late 1945. Luxembourgish forces functioned under overall French command within the zone and were responsible for the areas of Bitburg and Eifel and parts of Saarburg. They were withdrawn from Saarburg in 1948, and from Bitburg-Eifel in July 1955. [ citation needed ]

Watch the video: The National Day of Luxembourg - The Military Parade Part 1