Ministers sworn in by grand duke in pandemic fashion

Luxembourg’s newest members of government--Yuriko Backes, Georges Engel and Claude Haagen--were sworn in on Wednesday morning by the grand duke via video conference.

The palace on Tuesday announced that Grand Duke Henri had tested positive for coronavirus and was isolating at his castle in Colmar Berg. Audiences with the outgoing cabinet ministers--Pierre Gramegna (DP), Dan Kersch and Romain Schneider (both LSAP)--were cancelled and the swearing in of their successors moved online.

Backes (DP) is taking over as finance minister, the first woman to hold this office in Luxembourg. Engel (LSAP) on Wednesday officially became labour and sport minister while Haagen (LSAP) assumed his post as social security and agriculture minister.

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) attended the ceremony, which was nonetheless held at the grand ducal palace in Luxembourg City.

Backes leaves her post as the head of the royal household’s administration--the so-called Maréchale de la Cour--for the government post. The former diplomat on social media thanked the grand duke for his trust and said it had been an honour to work for the head of state.

“The ceremony wasn’t planned like this,” Backes told reporters. “It was still a beautiful and emotional moment. We are happy that we could organise it in this way.”

Engel meanwhile transitions into government from his seat as a member of parliament. Haagen, too, served as an MP and was also mayor of Diekirch, another office he is leaving behind to join the cabinet.