Luxembourg

1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament elections

Commitment to European integration

The key top­ics in the elec­toral cam­paign were the fight against unem­ploy­ment, the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, the preser­va­tion of social rights, cli­mate pro­tec­tion, data safe­ty and the Transat­lantic Trade and Invest­ment Part­ner­ship (TTIP). Basi­cal­ly, all polit­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant forces from Lux­em­bourg rep­re­sent­ed in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment are pro-EU. The defence of what is com­mon­ly called the Euro­pean mod­el of wel­fare state was in fact part of the elec­toral cam­paign, due to the fact that Europe is most­ly con­sid­ered to be part of the answer to a glob­al­ized world putting pres­sure on the achieve­ments of the social state. This does not mean that the Com­mis­sion’s eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy is over­whelm­ing­ly wel­comed, but there is no rel­e­vant par­ty say­ing that the achieve­ments of the Lux­em­bour­gish wel­fare state can be bet­ter defend­ed out­side the Union.

The choice of Jean-Claude Junck­er for the pres­i­den­cy of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion was of major impor­tance and con­tributed prob­a­bly to a large extent to the good per­for­mance of the Chris­t­ian Social Peo­ple’s Par­ty (CSV). The per­spec­tive that a Lux­em­bourg­er might become the pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion — the third one with a Lux­em­bourg pass­port –fills some of his fel­low cit­i­zens with pride. Nonethe­less, Mar­tin Schulz, the social­ist can­di­date, was backed with strong sup­port by the Lux­em­bourg Social­ist Work­ers’ Par­ty (LSAP). How­ev­er, the elec­tion results have revealed that Schulz cam­paign was not real­ly much help for his Lux­em­bour­gish sup­port­ers. The LSAP was one of the big losers of the elec­tions. As for the oth­er can­di­dates, their polit­i­cal impact in Lux­em­bourg was very small.

(Soft-)euroscepticism only at second glance

Dur­ing the elec­toral cam­paign the main Lux­em­bour­gish news­pa­per, the Lux­em­burg­er Wort, head­lined: “(almost) all polit­i­cal par­ties unit­ed for Europe — par­ties posi­tion them­selves for the inten­sive phase of the cam­paign. They are still seek­ing for sub­stan­tial­ly dis­tinc­tive posi­tions” (Bumb).This analy­sis is indeed appro­pri­ate for the ‘big four’, already rep­re­sent­ed in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in the 2009–2014 term: the Chris­t­ian Social Peo­ple’s Par­ty (CSV), the Lux­em­bourg Social­ist Work­ers’ Par­ty (LSAP), the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (DP) and the Greens (Déi Greng). Due to the fact that Lux­em­bourg is one of the small­est Mem­ber States, only six seats are allo­cat­ed to its can­di­dates for the Stras­bourg hemi­cy­cle. On the back­ground of the mod­er­ate polit­i­cal land­scape it was arith­meti­cal­ly rather doubt­ful that any oth­er than the afore­men­tioned par­ties would be rep­re­sent­ed in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. How­ev­er, euroscep­ti­cal par­ties were not total­ly absent in the run-up to the elec­tions.

The Alter­na­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic Reform Par­ty (ADR) cam­paigned with the slo­gan “More Lux­em­bourg, less Europe”, aspir­ing for a Europe of nation-states. Curi­ous­ly enough, the ADR, con­sid­er­ing itself as the only euroscep­ti­cal par­ty, wants to keep the Euro­zone and is far from advo­cat­ing an exit from the Union.

The Left (Déi Lénk) appealed for vot­ers by cam­paign­ing for the “Recon­struc­tion of the Euro­pean Union” from a social­ist and anti-cap­i­tal­ist angle. The Com­mu­nist Par­ty (KPL) called for the nul­li­fi­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty. Although none of the rather (soft-)sceptical par­ties col­lect­ed indi­vid­u­al­ly suf­fi­cient votes to be rep­re­sent­ed in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, the results of the 2014 elec­tions give evi­dence of some dis­com­fort with the state of the Union. Togeth­er, they rep­re­sent approx­i­mate­ly 15 per­cent of the vot­ers.

Elections to the European Parliament in the light of national snap elections

The high turnout rate of about 90 per­cent is due to elec­toral duty — in Lux­em­bourg, vot­ing is com­pul­so­ry. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, Euro­pean elec­tions were held the same day as nation­al elec­tions. But snap elec­tions in Octo­ber 2013 have led to the first real­ly Euro­pean elec­toral cam­paign in Lux­em­bourg. The out­come of the elec­tions must be ana­lyzed in the light of Jean-Claude Junck­er’s can­di­da­cy for the pres­i­den­cy of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the nation­al elec­tions just sev­en month ago. Although Junck­er’s Chris­t­ian Social Peo­ple’s Par­ty (CSV) gained the most seats in the Lux­em­bour­gish par­lia­ment, it was evict­ed from gov­ern­ment by a coali­tion of Lib­er­als, Social­ists and Greens. On the back­ground of the nation­al elec­tions, the three par­ties in the cur­rent Lux­em­bourg gov­ern­ment had to bear con­sid­er­able loss­es in the elec­tions to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. How­ev­er, the attri­bu­tion of seats does­n’t change in com­par­i­son with the pre­vi­ous term 2009–2014. They are dis­trib­uted as fol­lows: CSV 3 seats, LSAP 1 seat, DP 1 seat, The Greens 1 seat.

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2. The EU’s Neighbourhood

Trust in Russia weakened for years

Beware of the fact that Lux­em­bourg is but a small fig­ure on the chess­board of inter­na­tion­al diplo­ma­cy, it is an intrin­sic fea­ture of its for­eign pol­i­cy to stick to the frame­work of inter­na­tion­al law and to the posi­tions found with­in the EU For­eign Affairs Coun­cil and NATO. In an inter­view giv­en on 1 April 2014, on occa­sion of the meet­ing of the North Atlantic Coun­cil in Brus­sels, the Lux­em­bourg Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Jean Assel­born, blamed Rus­sia for vio­lat­ing inter­na­tion­al law and treaties. He claimed that trust in the coun­try has been weak­ened sig­nif­i­cant­ly for the next years. Nonethe­less, he said that the rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia as a whole should not be put into ques­tion, tak­ing into account Europe’s depen­den­cy on Russ­ian gas and know­ing that Lux­em­bourg’s finan­cial sec­tor would be affect­ed by eco­nom­ic sanc­tions giv­en the fact that Lux­em­bourg is the third biggest investor in Rus­sia and serves as a hub for Russ­ian activ­i­ties and invest­ments in the EU.

Europe’s mistake not to be reiterated

This report is part of the EU-28 Watch No. 10. For cita­tion please use the full report avail­able at: http://www.eu-28watch.org/.
From the Lux­em­bour­gish stance, the Ukraine cri­sis con­firms the neces­si­ty of the East­ern Part­ner­ship. How­ev­er, the polit­i­cal class prob­a­bly shares the view of the Grand Duchy’s Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Jean Assel­born, that it was a big mis­take to urge Ukraine to choose between the West and Rus­sia — a mis­take that should not be repeat­ed in the wider con­text of the East­ern Part­ner­ship. In oth­er words, the part­ner­ship with east­ern coun­tries should not pro­voke fur­ther antag­o­nism towards Rus­sia.

Negotiations with Turkey should continue

In the con­text of the elec­tions of May 2014, one sin­gle par­ty, the euroscep­ti­cal Alter­na­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic Reform Par­ty (ADR) cam­paigned open­ly against future mem­ber­ship of Turkey in the EU. All par­ties heav­i­ly crit­i­cise the cur­rent Turk­ish gov­ern­ment under Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan for the way it deals with protests and for its restric­tion of press free­dom. Nonethe­less, the Lux­em­bour­gish Min­istry of For­eign Affairs still con­sid­ers EU nego­ti­a­tions with Turkey as part of the process of a tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy.

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3. Power relations in the EU

Germany as part of the directoire

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, the well­be­ing of Lux­em­bourg is con­sid­ered to depend, among oth­er things, on a bal­anced rela­tion­ship between France and Ger­many and on its own good rela­tions with both coun­tries. Ger­many’s rel­a­tive strength com­pared to France’s is not per­ceived as a major prob­lem. What is real­ly crit­i­cised is the atti­tude of the big mem­ber states in the Euro­pean Coun­cil. The pol­i­cy of a direc­toire-group of big States is seen as being detri­men­tal to the supra­na­tion­al approach favoured by small­er mem­ber states.

At the same time, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, Angela Merkel, was repeat­ed­ly crit­i­cised for her rigour in the finan­cial cri­sis. From the Lux­em­bour­gish point of view, the prob­lem of espe­cial­ly high youth unem­ploy­ment in south­ern Europe has not found suf­fi­cient atten­tion in Ger­man pol­i­tics. Final­ly, the sup­port by Merkel for the for­mer Lux­em­bour­gish Prime Min­is­ter, Jean-Claude Junck­er, as future pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion has pro­duced a very pos­i­tive echo. In view of grow­ing scep­ti­cism con­cern­ing Euro­pean inte­gra­tion and the elec­tion of Eur­o­crit­i­cal par­ties in most Euro­pean mem­ber states, the pro-Euro­pean stance of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is rather reas­sur­ing from the Lux­em­bour­gish point of view.

More integration

The aus­ter­i­ty pol­i­cy sup­port­ed by the Com­mis­sion is open­ly crit­i­cized by vir­tu­al­ly all polit­i­cal par­ties because it is not suf­fi­cient­ly flanked by mea­sures to com­bat unem­ploy­ment. Since the out­break of the finan­cial cri­sis, mem­bers of the Lux­em­bourg gov­ern­ment argued repeat­ed­ly in favour of Eurobonds in order to sup­port the mem­ber states under the pres­sure of finan­cial mar­kets. On the oth­er hand, the Lux­em­bourg gov­ern­ment sticks to the con­trol mech­a­nisms of the Euro­zone and to an anti-infla­tion­ist mon­e­tary pol­i­cy.

Any reform agen­da in favour of more inter­gov­ern­men­tal­ism is reject­ed by vir­tu­al­ly all polit­i­cal par­ties. Just one par­ty which rep­re­sents about 7.5 per­cent of the Lux­em­bour­gish elec­torate wants “More Lux­em­bourg and less Europe.”

Most recent­ly, a promi­nent Lux­em­bour­gish Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment from the Alliance of Lib­er­als and Democ­rats for Europe (ALDE), Charles Goerens, sent a let­ter to the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment call­ing for an open vote in order to choose the next pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

A possible British exit

From a Lux­em­bour­gish point of view, a pos­si­ble UK exit as a con­se­quence of a ref­er­en­dum to be held in 2017 is no longer a ter­ri­fy­ing idea. In fact, the British veto of an EU-wide treaty change in Decem­ber 2011, which final­ly led to an inter-gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment with­out the UK called fis­cal treaty, is but one British deci­sion under­min­ing Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. Lux­em­bour­gish Mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment speak open­ly in favour of the UK leav­ing the Euro­pean Union. Late­ly, Cameron’s oppo­si­tion to the appoint­ment of Jean-Claude Junck­er as the next pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has been harsh­ly crit­i­cized.

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This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.