Adapting the constitution to the realities of the 21st century

An Interview with Simone Beissel

The Luxembourgish constitution has its origins in the 19th century. Why is a constitution still important in the 21stcentury?

SB: A constitution is important for every parliamentary democracy because it determines the entire organisation and workings of a state, its institutions, the principles of the rule of law and mainly the protection of the citizens.

1868, 2009, 2015, 2019 – the constitution has been adapted over time. A new amendment has been in the workings for the past 10 years. How far has the work progressed at this point?

SB: It really is a long time. Since 1868, so this means 152 years. I was surprised myself, so far there have been at least 27 constitutional amendments. The risk with multiple changes is that at some point a text might lose its coherence. In 2005 there were first thoughts about making adjustments. In 2009 the decision was made to review the constitution in its entirety. Unfortunately, the project was overturned after the election in 2018, and we had to reconvene. We have been working on it ever since. We are 4 members of parliament reporting on the dossier. Each has been assigned their chapters of the constitution to work on. The chapters on the justice system, the state, the Grand Duke, Government, the general organization, and the transitional dispositions have already been deposited. We are currently working on the chapter about parliament and I work on the chapter about the fundamental rights and civil rights. We hope that all propositions will be finalized come spring.

Which are the main concepts and focal points of this reform?

SB: The main goal is to adapt the constitution to the political and social realities of a 21st century. There is now a dedicated chapter outlining and defining the Grand Duke’s attributions and his statute. Currently several functions which are already being performed by the Government, are mentioned in the constitution as being executed “in the name of the Grand Duke”. The Government is now reinforced on these points. Chambers are also reinforced in their control function. The justice system’s sovereignty is enhanced by including the independence of the ‘Juridiction assise’ in the constitution and we aim for a modernisation of the system by creating a National Council of Justice. Finally, the texts about human rights are also adapted.

The chapter on fundamental and civil rights is in your hands. Which aspects are most important to you?

SB: There were 22 fundamental rights until now. In 2001 the European Union established its Charter of Fundamental Rights which I had the privilege to assist working on. The European Social Charter was also adopted. Many rights were added. Children’s rights for example, the right of scientific research or also animal protection were never im-bedded in our constitution. Yet they have an important significance in our society and therefore need to also be re-flected in the text. We work on the constitution for the citizens. As such, it is important that their protection along with well-organised institutions are reconciled in an appropriate way. I really want my part to be intelligible so that everyone can understand it.

Over the past months there was a lot of discussion, certainly also in conjunction with the creation of the ‘Maison du Grand-Duc’. Does the monarchy still have its place in a modern constitution?

SB: I believe that the constitutional monarchy is a fitting model for Luxembourg. Our monarchy grew historically over time and Grand-Duchess Charlotte, same as Grand Duke Jean were symbols of Luxembourg’s unity and freedom. During state visits it is also obvious that a Grand Duke is treated differently than a president for example. Generally, these visits proceed very well, we receive many invitations and other countries’ representatives also like coming to Luxembourg. The role of the Grand Duke becomes increasingly representative, but he remains part of the executive and he is extremely disciplined. One should also not forget; the people of Luxembourg are very traditional at heart. Especially the older generations have, over the years, always been loyal to the monarchy.

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