POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - POLITICS

Interview

Constitutional reform breaks promise to voters, says ADR



"The state is perfectly entitled to take the sanitary and hygienic measures it wants, but in the private life of people, which is a constitutional right, it has nothing to do", insisted Fernand Kartheiser, president of the parliamentary group of the ADR. (Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne)

"The state is perfectly entitled to take the sanitary and hygienic measures it wants, but in the private life of people, which is a constitutional right, it has nothing to do", insisted Fernand Kartheiser, president of the parliamentary group of the ADR. (Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne)

The ADR during its review of the 2020-2021 parliamentary session criticised the government’s management of virus outbreaks in care homes but also the reform of the constitution with Fernand Kartheiser, chairman of the conservative party’s parliamentary group, saying he cannot support the new text.

What is your assessment of this parliamentary year?

Fernand Kartheiser: We have been extremely active, there have been more than 400 parliamentary questions and bills. As far as covid is concerned, I would make two comments. First of all, we have always consistently and permanently defended, and we were the only ones to do so, the principle of not letting the state interfere in people's private lives, so we always voted against covid laws. The state is perfectly within its rights to make whatever sanitary and hygienic arrangements it wants, but in people's private lives, which is a constitutional right, it has no business.

We have also always called for a strengthening of the grand duchy's resilience in the face of crises of all kinds, so we have drawn consequences from this covid-19 crisis. For example, we demanded a change in the hospital law and introduced a bill. We want more pharmaceutical industry in Europe to be more independent from China. We have made a number of proposals on strengthening the health and hospital sector. We want strategic reserves.

Do you feel you have been heard?

It is always difficult to measure the impact of what we say, because there is an automatic majority in parliament, and the government is always in a block logic. In my opinion, there is an impact, especially regarding the proposals on the resilience of the country. The government refuses them in parliament, but that does not mean that our own work is not taken into account. So the impact is hard to quantify, but I am sure we are having an influence.

How well do you think the government has handled the health crisis?

It has to be said first of all that the government, like all of us, was totally surprised by the emergence of this situation. Given the general surprise and solidarity in the country, I think the whole country reacted reasonably well in the first phase.

Afterwards, many questions were raised. Why, for example, prevent a small shop from opening, but not the big supermarkets? Why does a minister of education say that you can't contract covid-19 in school when the opposite is true? Above all, the management in the Cipa's [care homes, editor’s note] has been catastrophic and minister [Corinne] Cahen refuses to draw the slightest consequences.

So, I would say that at the beginning we had remarkable solidarity and a fairly irreproachable efficiency, but that there were then many weaknesses, many inconsistencies, and also a lot of interference in people's private lives. I would be nuanced. The more the crisis progresses, the more problems there are.

What do you think could have been done better?

In the Cipas, for example, consistent measures should have been taken. We are generally in favour of voluntary vaccination, but there have to be exceptions. When you are in daily contact with vulnerable people, you have to establish a protective barrier, and there, nothing was done in that sense. There were very general instructions, but not specific, it was negligence.

I can't imagine voting for a constitution like that.
Fernand Kartheiser

Fernand KartheiserMP, Chairman of the parliamentary groupADR

What issues have stood out for you during this parliamentary year, apart from covid?

For us, the main priority at the moment is the defence of the constitution, because we are experiencing something very tragic. It is the breaking of an electoral promise made by four major political parties, who promised a referendum in 2018 on the revision of the constitution. Now, out of fear of failure, they are breaking their promises, thereby discrediting the political culture in the country; the promise of a referendum will not have been kept. And I see that there are already cracks in their revision project.

For us, the electorate must be able to express its opinion on this new constitution that is being proposed , which is an essential issue. You cannot promise a referendum and not do it.

The second very important issue for us is housing. Our member of parliament Roy Reding has put forward a large number of proposals in parliament which cost nothing, but which would immediately free up housing.

In Luxembourg, there are many people who hold on to free housing or land, because they want to keep it for their children, and they don't want to rent it. We are asking for more flexibility in the rental law, to be able to conclude fixed-term rental contracts. What surprises us is that these easy changes could free up housing quickly. However, they are not being made because we do not want to introduce a liberal element into tenancy law, and that is a mistake.

We cannot try to exert pressure, to introduce new taxes, when other, much more effective and faster ways are possible.

And what is your position on the substance of the revision of the constitution?

At our recent national congress, we made an analysis of the content of the proposals. We raised many problems with the substance. We are witnessing a politicisation of the constitution, but the purpose of the constitution is not to set political objectives, but to organise the functioning of the state. We also criticise the fact that Luxembourg's sovereignty will be reduced in favour of the European Union. We criticise the provisions governing family law, as well as the return of the right to vote for foreigners, which is contrary to the result of the 2015 referendum.

So you will vote against this revision?

Absolutely, I can't imagine voting for a constitution of this type.