Constitutional reform threatens diversity, says Asti

Luxembourg, a diverse and multilingual community, says ASTI.  (c) 2019 Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock.

Luxembourg, a diverse and multilingual community, says ASTI.  (c) 2019 Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock.

Asti, a non-profit organisation for the support of immigrant workers in Luxembourg, in a statement published on Tuesday said a reform of Luxembourg’s constitution could create a divide among Luxembourg’s diverse population.

Luxembourgish - useful symbolically, not administratively

Article 4(1), the first point ASTI identifies as highly problematic in its official statement, states that “the language of Luxembourg is Luxembourgish. The law decides the use of Luxembourgish, French and German.” Indeed, this change would make Luxembourgish not just the main but the only official language of the country.

Seeing this proposed modification as a threat to social cohesion and democracy, Asti said “this choice seems in complete incoherence in regard to the linguistic reality of Luxembourg’s society in 2021.” The drafting of this sentence in French is pretty ironic, added the non-profit organisation.

Several problems could arise from such a change to the constitution: not only would the issue create a divide in Luxembourg’s diverse community by distinguishing those who speak Luxembourgish and those who don’t, but it would also leave space for “nefarious interpretations” of the law.

Referring to the national broadcaster RTL’s initial refusal to make its electoral advertising spots accessible to non-Luxembourgish audiences, Asti  said it fears people who don’t speak the language won’t have access to the same information as natives in, for instance, the context of elections.

Multilingualism, a contributor to Luxembourg’s wealth

Aside from this, the organisation pointed out discrepancies in the proposed reform on the educational level: “How should we interpret this monolingual postulate when, at the same time, so-called international public schools that celebrate multilingualism bloom in the educational sector?” 

This comes in addition to the fact that children learn to read and write in German and must learn German and French as a condition for graduating. Asti also said many Luxembourg students pursue higher education abroad and even deputies are sworn in in French. “Luxembourg, a small European country, has many qualities that make it great, amongst which is its multilingualism.”

Creating a divide between communities

Asti also opposed Art.11(1)--“Luxembourgers shall be equal before the law.”--and Art. 11 bis, which states that “any non-Luxembourgish national who is in the territory of the grand duchy, shall enjoy the protection granted to persons and property, with the exceptions established by law.”

Aside from the fact that about half of Luxembourg’s citizens are foreigners, the new proposition would contradict international pacts signed by Luxembourg, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition, the change could invite in the risk of a parliamentary majority excluding immigrants from several social rights and would distinguish them from Luxembourg nationals in the eyes of the law.

Alternatives to avoid separation

Though it criticises the reform project, Asti also offers alternatives.

For example, it suggests that on languages, the current phrasing in the constitution should be kept: “The law will regulate the use of languages in administrative and judicial matters.” For the second point, it suggests adopting the International Convent’s phrasing, namely that “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.”

At a time when Luxembourg’s international community grows, and petitions regarding the use of English grow, these reformed points appear anachronistic, said Asti. However, it also welcomed efforts by the lawmakers to modernise the constitution, such as the introduction of the right to asylum and the addition to objectives of constitutional value that had not previously existed in the 150-year old constitution.