Find these and more headlines from the world of Luxembourg politics in our weekly news roundup below.
What’s the big deal?
Lawmakers for ten years have been deliberating over a reform of bankruptcy laws, which was first submitted to parliament twenty years ago in 2003. The bill was previously split into two parts to accelerate part of the proceedings and simplify the dissolution of companies under a text adopted in October last year. This will help eliminate empty shells--companies that only exist on paper but have no assets left--without requiring formal bankruptcy proceedings.
The bigger issue at stake, however, remains pending as the reform is set to make is possible for failed entrepreneurs to launch a new business but also prevent business owners who acted in bad faith from starting a new venture. More generally, the reform also aims to prevent companies from going bust in the first place, by detecting businesses in trouble early, and to protect employees.
Parliamentarians met this week to adopt a series of amendments and the ball is now back in the state council’s court, which had issued a series of remarks on the draft law in its mandatory assessment on whether it complies with other legislation and is legally sound. If not voted before the summer break--a deadline eyed by parliamentarians--the text faces further delays as the Chamber of Deputies will reconstitute following the October elections.
· Luxembourg legal experts are set to take part in an investigation by the International Criminal Court to collect evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by Russia in its war against Ukraine. The government in April gave the green light for Luxembourg to participate and foreign ministry representatives this week updated lawmakers on the progress made so far. No details have been revealed on the number of investigators from the grand duchy taking part.
· After the government limited access to the country’s beneficial owners register, work on a new legal framework to regulate use of the database by journalists continues. The European Court of Justice last year had revoked public access to the register, prompting pushback by investigative journalists who used it to uncover shady business dealings. Lawmakers met with data protection authority CNPD this week and is set to invite the Luxembourg press council for further deliberations.
· Luxembourg’s abortion laws are set to undergo review, health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) said in response to a parliamentary question. This comes after a family planning group had suggested extending the delay to get an abortion from 12 to 14 weeks as well as doing away with a mandatory second consultation and waiting period of three days for women to decide whether to go ahead with the procedure. A working group should start its analyses before the end of May and deliver results as soon as possible, the minister said without indicating a more precise timeline.
· Lawmakers are in the process of creating the legal framework to implement some of the reforms of Luxembourg’s constitution adopted last year. Among them is the creation of a new mechanism for members of the public to introduce a draft law in parliament if they can find 12,500 voters to support the plan. This citizens’ initiative is only open to people who can vote in parliamentary elections, excluding the country’s foreign population.
· Labour minister Georges Engel (LSAP) is keeping up momentum on making a reduction of working hours a campaign issue for the October national election, telling Radio 100,7 this week that a 38-hour week would make Luxembourg more attractive to employees. Engel also accused the UEL business union of burying its head in the sand over the topic, adding that similar debates were ongoing in many European countries.
· The Pirate Party is fielding 218 candidates for the local elections this year and will be represented with a full list for the council in 13 communes. President Sven Clement during an annual general meeting on 6 May said he expects the party to gain ground on 11 June but also hopes to see more members elected during parliamentary elections in October, and perhaps also see a Pirate representing Luxembourg in the European Parliament next year.
· The CSV’s city branch on Thursday presented its local elections programme, with a key pledge being the introduction of a municipal police force under the stewardship of the national police. Other promises involve developing greener neighbourhoods, improving transport networks, opening a youth centre in every neighbourhood and more citizen input into decision-making.
Quote of the week
Investment in cycling infrastructure is such low-hanging fruit that most transport decision-makers can’t see it from inside their car.
Bausch on 9 May spoke at a global cycling summit hosted in Leipzig, Germany, where he took part in a roundtable to discuss the transition from car to bicycle in cities.
· “The percentage as such says nothing,” Bausch, who also serves as defence minister, said during a press conference on Thursday about a 2% of GDP spending goal set by Nato in 2014. Presenting Luxembourg’s 2035 defence strategy, the minister said the grand duchy is prepared to do its part but that it won’t be able to reach this goal and is lobbying against an increase of the 2% target that is up for discussion during a July summit in Vilnius. Luxembourg is set to spend 1% of GDP, around €1bn, on defence annually starting 2028. It will build its ground, air, space and cybersecurity capacities under the strategy presented on 11 May.
· Foreign minister Jean Asselborn (LSAP) travelled to London on Thursday to meet with foreign secretary James Cleverly. On the agenda were EU-UK relations but also the war in Ukraine and the signing of a bilateral agreement between the grand duchy and Great Britain on closer cooperation in a number of areas, from security and defence to human rights, migration and financial services.
· Justice minister Sam Tanson (déi Gréng) meanwhile visited Langenlois, Austria for a meeting of German-speaking justice ministers in Europe, which also included representatives from Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, discussing cybercrime and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ministers also spoke about controversial new EU rules aimed at combating child pornography that risk creating surveillance obligations for tech companies violating user privacy on platforms such as WhatsApp.
· And following trips to Bangladesh and Nepal at the start of this month, minister of the economy Franz Fayot (LSAP) was off to San Francisco and Los Angeles this week together with Crown Prince Guillaume to suss out potential partnerships in the area of space, artificial intelligence and CleanTech.
In other news
Interior minister Taina Bofferding (LSAP) this week issued new guidelines for tiny houses in Luxembourg, giving communes more tools to include the dwellings--which must be smaller than 50m2--in their land use and urban development plans. The move aims to cut red tape and make it easier to set up tiny houses in the country.