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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Legal Profession | Law Schools
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a democratic, free, independent (from the Netherlands, since the April 19, 1839 London treaty) and indivisible state. It is a founding member of the United Nations as well as of the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community, now collectively called the European Union, which has many institutions based in Luxembourg. It is also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and of the Council of Europe since their foundations in 1949.

As a constitutional monarchy with hereditary succession in the Nassau family, the executive power authority lies with the Grand Duke (Grand Duke Henri since October 7, 2000, succeeding to his father Grand Duke Jean), but the Grand-Duchy is ruled by a system of parliamentary democracy established by the Constitution of October 17, 1868, last reviewed in 2000. The sovereign power resides in the Nation.

In practice, the executive power lies with the Prime Minister (Jean-Claude Juncker since January 20, 1995) and the members of his government (actually 11 ministers and 2 State secretaries) appointed by the Grand Duke. The seat of the government is the city of Luxembourg, the capital of the Grand Duchy.

The government is responsible to the legislative assembly called the Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des D駱ut駸), who represents the country and whose members are elected to serve five-year terms by the way of direct universal suffrage on the party-list system, in accordance with the rules of proportional representation. The legislative branch is unicameral and composed of 60 deputies. All bills are submitted to a second vote with an interval of at least three months between the two votes, unless the Chamber, in agreement with the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) otherwise decides at a public sitting. The Grand Duke sanctions and promulgates the laws, and he may dissolve the Chamber, in which case new elections are held at the latest within three months of the dissolution.

The Council of State, comprising 21 members, expresses its views on bills and propositions of law and amendments that might be proposed hereto, as well as on all other matters referred to it by the Government or by the law.

Several professional bodies have to be consulted before the passage of legislation affecting the members they represent. A Social and Economic Council advises the government on all major projects.

Treaties are concluded by the Grand Duke, but they have to be sanctioned by law and published in the manner laid down for the publication of laws.

The Grand Duchy is administratively divided into three districts, in turn divided into cantons and subdivided into communes and municipalities. Communes form administrative authorities, on a territorial basis, possessing legal personality and administrating their patrimony and own interests. A communal council (Conseil communal) is directly elected by the inhabitants to issue communal regulations and public works and draw up the early budgets and accounts. A commune is administered under the authority of the corporate body of the mayor and the alderman (Coll鑒e des bourgmestre et 馗hevins) chosen from the communal councilors. Certain supervision is made by the government and the Grand Duke of the administration of these bodies, who act also as local government agents.

The exercise of the powers reserved by the Constitution to the legislature, executive and judiciary may be temporarily vested by treaty in institutions governed by international law.

The legislature has the right to declare the need to amend any constitutional provision. Following such declaration, the Chamber automatically dissolves and the new Chamber decides, by common consent with the Grand Duke, on the point to be amended. During this vote, at least three-quarters of the Chamber's members have to be present and the adoption of the amendment requires at least two-thirds of the votes.

The Constitution comprises 120 articles, divided into 11 chapters. It deals with the constitutional provisions of the Grand Duchy, the fundamental rights of individual citizens and the organization of public bodies. It is superior to the ordinary law and to executive regulations, which have to be conform to the Constitution.

The Luxembourg legal system is based on civil law. Many laws are based on French or Belgian legislation. An increasing amount of legislation has its source in European Union regulations, directives and decisions.

JURIST Luxembourg Correspondent

Courts & Judgments

Justices of the peace and judges of the civil, commercial and criminal courts (district courts, Superior Court of Justice) are appointed for life directly by the Grand Duke, who acts on the advice of the Superior Court of Justice for the appointment of members of the Superior Court of Justice and presidents and vice-presidents of the district courts. No judicial appointees may be deprived of their posts or suspended, save by a judicial decision.

Jurisdiction in administrative and tax matters belongs to the Administrative Tribunal and the Administrative Court, both created in 1996. The magistrates of these courts are nominated by the Grand Duke, on the advice of the Administrative Court (for members of the Administrative Court) and of the president and vice-presidents of the Administrative Tribunal (for the Administrative Tribunal).

The Constitutional Court, established in 1997, decides on the laws' conformity with the Constitution, save the laws approving treaties. The Constitutional Court is composed of the President of the Superior Court of Justice, the President of the Administrative Court, two counselors of the Cour de Cassation and five magistrates nominated by the Grand Duke upon the joint opinion of the Superior Court of Justice and Administrative Court.

The judiciary is independent from the executive and the legislature. Judgments and decisions are required to be be reasoned, are pronounced in public court session and are enforced in the name of the Grand Duke.

JURIST Luxembourg Correspondent

Legal Profession

Law Schools

The Luxembourg university system does not offer a full legal education.

A "first cycle" is however offered in Luxembourg by the law department of Centre Universitaire. Its program is adapted to neighbor countries' university programs. Students intending to continue their legal studies in Belgium follow a one year program at Centre Universitaire and are directly admitted to the third year at a Belgian university. A two year program is offered to students continuing their legal studies in France and provides access to the third year at a French university. These equivalences are subject to agreements between Centre Universitaire on the one side, and the French and Belgian universities on the other side.

Most Luxembourg law students return to Luxembourg at the end of their studies in order to be admitted to the Luxembourg bar (conditional on a further six months education in Luxembourg law and by the authentication their French or Belgium law diploma, comprising a verification of the contents of the courses followed during their studies) or to work in public administration or private enterprises.

Since 1999/2000, a DESS (Diplme d'騁udes sup駻ieures sp馗ialis馥s - diploma in specialized studies) in European Community Litigation has been offered by Institut Universitaire International de Luxembourg, in partnership with Centre Universitaire and the University of Nancy 2 and the Robert Schuman University, Strasbourg. It is designed to provide a tailor-made, in-depth and highly specialized course of training in the fundamental elements and technical aspects of European Community litigation. It is intended for jurists who have already completed a full course of university education of at least four years' duration and who possess a solid grounding in Community law.

Patrick Goergen
Avocat la Cour (Luxembourg bar), Lecturer, Institut national d'administration publique (INAP) Luxembourg