The Grand Duke is the Head of State, as defined by Article 33 of the Constitution. Both within and outside Luxembourg’s borders, the Grand Duke is the representative of the country’s identity. He symbolises its independence, the unity of the territory and the permanence of the State.
Article 51 provides that the Grand Duchy is a parliamentary democracy. The nation is the source of sovereign power. It is before its representatives that the Grand Duke takes the oath on acceding to the Throne ('I swear to observe the Constitution and the laws of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to maintain national independence and the integrity of the territory, as well as public and individual liberties’, Art. 5 of the Constitution).
The exercise of sovereign powers is entrusted to the Grand Duke.
The Grand Duke thus has a central and essential role: he is at the heart of the institutional system, while respecting the principle that 'the sovereign reigns but does not govern’.
The representative aspect of the role of the Grand Duke is based on the principle of the hereditary devolution of the Crown, which is enshrined in the Constitution. This places the Head of State above and beyond political parties and thus guarantees his impartiality.
He does not have any powers other than those the Constitution and the specific laws formally allocate to him.
The inviolability of the Grand Duke means that he cannot be accused or prosecuted by anyone, that he is not liable to any jurisdiction and that he cannot be held accountable for his actions.
This inviolability implies the Grand Duke’s complete unaccountability. His unaccountability is general and absolute, both from a penal and political point of view. The Grand Duke’s political unaccountability has the ministerial responsibility as its counterpart. Indeed, any measure adopted by the Grand Duke in the context of his political powers, must be countersigned by a member of the government, who assumes full responsibility for it.
In Article 43, the Constitution provides a grant for the Grand Duke called the Civil List. This grant is destined to enable him to exercise his role as Head of State in complete independence.
Powers of the Head of State
The powers of the Grand Duke are mainly listed in Articles 33 to 48 of the Constitution, which grant him rather broad prerogatives. In reality, the exercise of his powers is more pragmatic than the Constitution seems to indicate.
Article 34 of the Constitution states that the Grand Duke enacts laws within three months of the vote of the Chamber of Deputies. This means that the Grand Duke attests to the content of the law and that the procedure for drafting the law was carried out in the proper fashion. This makes the law enforceable, in other words applicable. He orders its publication.
The Grand Duke’s regulatory powers consist in taking the regulations and administrative orders required for the enforcement of laws and treaties.
Article 74 of the Constitution further provides that the Grand Duke may dissolve the Chamber of Deputies. In this case, new legislative elections must be held within three months. In practice, dissolution only takes place at the proposal of the Government. The Grand Duke opens and closes parliamentary sessions through his representative. He also convenes extraordinary sessions.
The Grand Duke has the power to organise and supervise the administrative services and to make appointments to civil and military posts.
Finally, to ensure the maintenance of order and security in the country, the Grand Duke commands the armed forces. He may declare war and the cessation of hostilities after having been authorised to do so by a vote of the Chamber of Deputies (Article 37).
Justice is delivered on behalf of the Grand Duke by the courts and tribunals. Judgments and decrees ('arrêts’) are executed in his name (Article 49). However, the Grand Duke has no means of interfering in the exercise of judicial power. The Constitution gives the Grand Duke the right of pardon, i.e. the right to postpone or reduce sentences pronounced by judges.
The Grand Duke and his government
Regarding the organisation of his Government, the Grand Duke chooses an informateur (a person charged with talking to the different political parties to sound out who can become formateur) or a formateur (a person charged with building a Government that can secure a parliamentary majority) based on the election results. The latter usually becomes Prime Minister. The formateur introduces the members of the Government to the Grand Duke, who appoints and swears them in. The Grand Duke has the right to dismiss a minister, but that is a right he has never used. Tradition has it, that after legislative elections, the entire Government presents its resignation to the Grand Duke.
The Grand Duke’s role at the international level
The Grand Duke represents the country abroad and acts at the international level on behalf of the Luxemburgish State. He may therefore conclude treaties with foreign States, which must be approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
Foreign ambassadors must present their credentials to the Grand Duke in order to be officially accredited in Luxembourg.
State visits are one of the notable prerogatives of the Head of State. Considered the pinnacle of relations between two countries, they constitute one of the most important elements for developing common diplomatic, economic and cultural exchanges.
All about the protocol
Other commitments abroad
In addition to State visits and Official visits, the Head of State travels abroad to represent the country at high-level meetings and conferences of international institutions, historical commemorations or sporting or cultural events.
The Grand Duke takes a great interest in the work of the United Nations, in particular that of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in which he regularly participates.
Every year, the Grand Duke participates in the informal summit of German-speaking countries.
This summit brings together the Heads of State of six German-speaking countries (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland) to discuss the societal, political and economic challenges they face.
His Excellency Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, welcomes H.R.H. the Grand Duke at the 17th Informal Meeting of Heads of State of German-speaking Countries
The Grand Duke has been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1998 and regularly attends its meetings. The Grand Duke is committed to the promotion of the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence. Since 1999, he has also been a member of the Olympic Solidarity Commission. He has attended most of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games to support Luxembourgish athletes.
The Grand Duke at the London 2012 Olympic Games
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