Post by Charles Stewart
According to the
analysis of a Luxembourgeois legislative commission nearly seven years
ago that you quoted here
Grand Duke Jean had by then agreed in principle to gender-blind
succession. But it was explicitly acknowledged that implementation
thereof remained a matter of exercise of the grandducal prerogative.
Actually, this was not a legislative commission, but a committee created
pursuant to article 17 of the convention on the elimination of discrimination
against women (CEDAW):
A report of that committee is described in this parliamentary document:
and the succession laws are discussed on page 11.
Luxemburg ratified the convention in 1988 with a reservation regarding its
succession law. In the committee's first report to the UN in December 1996, it
was stated that "It is conceivable, however, that at some future time the order
of succession to the throne may be altered at the instance of the sovereign,
and in that case Luxembourg would, of course, withdraw its reservation."
In the 2d report, dated April 1997, it was said that "the Grand Duke [...] gave
his consent in principle to the ministerial proposal to amend article 3 of the
Constitution concerning the hereditary transmission of the crown."
Post by Charles Stewart
It appears that an alteration of the Erbverein by unilateral act of
the sovereign is possible under the law of 1907. That would allow the
Grand Duke to control the process, at least nominally.
My hunch is that Grand Duke Jean opposed the change, Grand Duke Henri
continues to stall on it, and the Prime Minister is now insisting that
the sovereign honor the old promise under threat of a parliamentary
showdown that might impose other changes on the dynasty.
There is another element here, which is that revision of the constitution was a
complicated procedure until recently. Article 114 meant that only the articles
of the constitution designated as amendable by the previous parliament right
before dissolution can be amended by the current parliament. Article 3 had been
designated as amendable in 1994.
Moreover, on March 7, 1996, Mrs Jacobs, minister of family and women's affairs,
indicated that it was the grand-duke's desire to amend the succession law
(document C-1995-O-034-0003 at http://www.chd.lu/):
Mme Anne Brasseur (DP).- [...] D'Ratifikatioun vun der Konventioun vun New York
am Jor 1988 huet de Prinzip vun der nët-Diskriminéierung bei eis verankert. Déi
Reserv, déi fir Lëtzebuerg drasteet, bezitt sech op de Familjepakt vun der
Famill Nassau an iwwer d'Successioun op den Troun. An ech si ganz frou, dass
d'Fraëministerin, d'Mme Jacobs, de Mueren ugekënnegt huet, dass de Grand-Duc
dermat d'accord as, dass dat bei enger nächster Revisioun vun der Konstitutioun
geännert gët, dass mer domat kënnen déi Reserv ophiewen, an domat si mir
selbstverständlech och averstanen.
Mme Marie-Josée Jacobs, Ministre de la Promotion féminine.- Mme Brasseur, et as
nët, dass de Grand-Duc dermat d'accord as, mä et as op ausdréckleche Wonsch vum
Grand-Duc. Ech mengen, dat as nach eng Differenz.
It's interesting to note that here, the "explicit wish" (not just the assent) of
the grand-duke was apparently for a change in the succession law on the occasion
of the next revision to the constitution. Major changes were made in 1998-99,
but not to the succession law.
Furthermore, before the legislature ended in 1999, article 3 was excluded from
the list of amendable articles, so that article was untouchable by the
legislature sitting from 1999 to 2004.
During the debate in May 1999 on which articles to include in the Declaration of
Revision, the following exchange took place (document C-1998-O-058-0012 at
M. Henri Grethen (DP).- Ech menge mech ze erënneren, dass d'Mme Jacobs an Optrag
vum Grand-Duc an d'Châmber koum a gesot huet, de Grand-Duc hätt décidéiert, e
géif d'Hausuerdnung vum Haus Nassau dahingehend ëmänneren, dass d'Successioun
och kéint un eng Fra goen, wann eng Fra Éischtgebuere gët. Ech froë jhust, Här
President, as esou eng Ännerung méiglech, wa mer den Artikel 3 nët revisabel
M. le Président.- Den Här Biltgen freet d'Wuert.
M. François Biltgen (CSV), rapporteur.- Mir sin der Menung, dass dat méiglech
as, well jo den Artikel 3 d'Referenz op den Nassauer Familjepakt mécht. Den
Artikel definéiert nët de Contenu vum Nassauer Pakt. Déi Deklaratioun vun haut
verhënnert nët dass dat geschitt, dass de Familjepakt dohigehend ëmgeännert gët,
d'Successioun geschlechterneutral ze gestalten.
My Letzebuergesch is rusty :-) but (with the help of http://www.luxdico.com/) I
make out the following: the representative seemed to recall that Mrs Jacobs once
communicated to the House that the grand-duke had decided to change the house
law of the house of Nassau so as to allow succession to pass to a female [cf.
supra], and asked if it would be possible to declare article 3 amendable; the
response of the committee was that the article referred to but did not define
the content of the pact; not declaring the article amendable would not prevent
changing the family pact so as to make succession gender neutral.
This confirms my view that the pact of 1783 is now a blank sheet; it also
supports your view that the constitutional practice of Luxemburg has been to
allow the grand-duke to write anything he likes on that sheet from time to time,
subject to formal or informal parliamentary approval.
(The law of 1907 lays down primogeniture in the male line of each of the
daughters of Wilhelm IV. It is true that the grand-duke reserved himself (sic!)
the right to make changes to the house law of a "familienstatutarisch" nature,
but I would have thought that introducing female succession went far beyond
Article 114 itself, however, had been declared amendable in 1999, and was in
fact amended by a law of 19 Dec 2003. According to this new law the
constitution can be amended by a text approved by a 2/3 majority of the
legislature in two votes taken at an interval of at least three months. The
second vote is replaced by a referendum upon request of 1/4 of the legislature
or 25,000 registered voters.
It is thus relatively easy now for a parliamentary majority to amend article 3
if it wishes; the grand-duke is now under the credible threat of explicitly
taking away the blank sheet and replacing it with a non-vacuous article 3.
A couple other points: (1) article 115 says that the constitution can be revised
during a regency except to modify the order of succession to the throne. It is
thus clear that the order of succession is a constitutional matter, and the
power to change it is not *wholly* delegated to the grand-duke. (2) On the other
hand, article 32 defines the powers of the grand-duke as being only those vested
in him by the constitution and laws passed pursuant to the constitution "le tout
sans préjudice de l'art. 3 de la présente Constitution". I am not sure what to
make of that last clause (which was inserted in 1919), but it looks like a
loophole of some sort.
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