Luxembourg and the European Union
- Robert HarmsenRobert HarmsenInstitute of Political Science, University of Luxembourg
- and Anna-Lena HögenauerAnna-Lena HögenauerInstitute of Political Science, University of Luxembourg
A founding member state of the European Union (EU) and a major European institutional center, Luxembourg has been a consistently strong supporter of the further development of European integration, often acting to facilitate compromises at critical moments. Its European policy rests on a broad political consensus and enjoys strong support in national public opinion. However, the country has also defended key national priorities on occasion, such as the interests of the steel sector in the early phases of European integration or its taxation policy in the early 21st century.
Historically, this openness toward cooperation can be explained by reference to Luxembourg’s long experience of cooperation with neighbouring countries. Luxembourg was a member of the Zollverein (German Customs Union) in the 19th century and formed an economic union with Belgium after the First World War.
European policymaking in Luxembourg is characterized by a pragmatic and informal policy style. The comparatively limited size of the national bureaucracy allows for an ease of internal communication and coordination. The typically long tenures and broad remits of national officials coupled with their multilingualism facilitate their integration into European policy arenas, where they often play pivotal roles.
Luxembourgish society is further highly “Europeanized.” As the country became one of the largest producers of steel in the world, it attracted high levels of immigration from other European countries. The economic transformation of the country from the 1980s onward—moving from an industrial economy to a service-based economy centered on the financial sector—would not have been conceivable without the parallel development and deepening of European integration. In 2018, foreigners made up 48% of the resident population of the country, with citizens of the other 27 EU member states accounting for around 85% of that foreign community. The country’s labor force is further heavily dependent on cross-border workers from the three surrounding countries. This unique national situation poses a range of distinctive policy challenges regarding both the national political system and the wider governance of an exceptionally dense network of cross-border relationships.