© SIP / Charles Caratini - Montage: RTL-Grafik
The three-party coalition government was a first for the Grand Duchy. As all governments do, it had its ups and downs. In this series we will be exploring 24 key moments. Read on for the first eight.
1. The official vehicle affair
The coalition government started with a faux-pas in January 2014, as Secretary of State Francine Closener used her official government car (with the 'Corps Diplomatique' number plates) to go on a ski holiday. The country reacted quite badly to this: on RTL.lu alone, there were over 1,527 comments about the affair.
For context, the only event that gained more comments was the news of actor Thierry van Werveke's death. Of all the comments, only 82% were fit to be published online.
That said, Closener did not strictly go against the code of conduct, according to Xavier Bettel: the code states that members of government can use the vehicles for private purposes. Other members of parliament also used their official vehicles to go on holiday.
2. The 'pact for the future'
One of the so-called Gambia coalition's (the nickname is derived from the colours of the three parties, which are the same as you find in the flag of Gambia) central measures was a range of austerity measures. Voters supported the measures until family policies were affected. Education and maternity benefits were both slashed. The opposition reacted loudly and fiercely to these measures.
As for people commenting on RTL articles and their reactions, an article on this is the second most-commented political article in the last five years. 701 comments were posted, of which 587 went online.
Insiders told RTL that the measures were justified, as maternity benefits had led to a type of 'benefit tourism'. In which case, surely those who were outraged by the policies at the time might have an issue with 'economic refugees' nowadays?
The 'pact for the future' came and went - with the consequence that the economy was recovering, which led to tax relief, which arrived perhaps at the right time: towards the end of the coalition's tenure.
During the discussions on measures to save money, the topic of selling a Picasso painting came up. Ultimately, the government decided to keep the "Paysage de Cannes au crépuscule".
Perhaps the coalition's biggest legacy was the referendum of 7 June 2015 and the resounding rejection of the proposals. Voters chose not to extend suffrage in Luxembourg to non-citizens and to 16 and 17 year olds as well as not to limit ministerial mandates.
The comments on the results of the referendum is RTL's third most-commented political article - 651 comments, of which 533 were published.
4. Speed cameras and trams
The coalition introduced ten permanent speed cameras and, of course, the tram. The tram now seems to be a success story and a model for others, but it was not always seen in this way. The tram was a contentious topic, with multiple parties remaining unconvinced of its usefulness.
As for the speed cameras, these were subject to a long process in the ministry before they were put through. The article about it is the fourth most commented.
5. Minister reshuffling
In 2015, the government did a spot of reshuffling: Maggy Nagel, minister for culture, was replaced by prime minister Xavier Bettel and Guy Arendt.
Nagel's departure came after two unfortunate events: the first was John Oliver's satirical take on Luxembourg, which was that it was France "without its cultural institutions."
Nagel was "not amused" by Oliver's comments and wanted to discuss them in the state council. Xavier Bettel's response to Oliver? The prime minister tweeted the comedian inviting him to come visit the Grand Duchy and discover its history and culture.
Bettel also reminded Oliver that Luxembourg had never been conquered by the United Kingdom, unlike much of the rest of the world.
Nagel was also unamused by the bill for a spit-roast pig, as she and her partner did not want to pay the entire bill as they did not fully enjoy the meal. The couple did eventually pay for their food, but the affair came out and people did not react well to Nagel's outburst. These two incidents led to Nagel leaving her post as minister and instead taking up the role of chief adviser to the ministry of the economy.
6. The USB budget
When the finance minister presented the budget for 2015, he did so by putting it on a USB stick to save paper and money. CSV MPs were concerned about this and questioned whether this was going against the legislation for not having a physical copy of the budget.
To stay on the safe side, a few physical copies were distributed in parliament. The Democratic Party was pleased with the CSV's objections - they perceived it as decent critique that the main objection over the budget was its mode of delivery.
Subsequent budgets have all been presented on USB sticks.
7. Gay marriage
The coalition wanted to make strides in social policies, such as allowing gay marriage. In June 2014, the Chambre passed the most fundamental reform since the Napoleon Code - and did so with a stunning majority. Since January 2015, same-sex couples have been able to marry and adopt.
Two couples to profit were quite high profile: Xavier Bettel married his partner Gauthier Destenay on 15 May 2015. In November 2016, deputy prime minister Etienne Schneider married his partner Jérôme Domange.
© Olidom Multimedia
On 11 November 2014, figurative fireworks went off in the Grand Duchy. The concerned politicians were aware, as they had been asked for reactions concerning the revelations of a journalistic investigation. The investigation revealed a system of negotiated tax rulings to benefit specific multinational clients.
Four minister - prime minister Xavier Bettel, minister of finance Pierre Gramegna, minister of the economy Etienne Schneider, and minister of justice Felix Braz - had to justify, explain, and apologise for a system that their government had inherited from previous administrations.
Prime minister Bettel and ministers Schneider, Gramegna, and Braz explain LuxLeaks. / © RTL-Archiv (Max Theis)
As RTL journalist François Aulner summarised the affair, it was Luxembourg's biggest act of nation branding, but not necessarily in the direction the government wanted it to go.
The negative headlines returned with the Panama Papers, which cited Luxembourgers from Guy Arendt to Albert Wiltgen. However, Luxembourg is no longer on any grey or black lists - despite the persisting trope of Luxembourg as a tax paradise.
Stay tuned for part two detailing more eventful moments during the Gambia coalition!
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