Luxembourg's Grand Duke set to block euthanasia law

3rd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

The Grand Duke's warning swiftly threatened to turn into a constitutional crisis.

3 December 200
LUXEMBOURG - Luxembourg's head of state, Grand Duke Henri, has warned that he will not ratify a law legalising euthanasia, in what would be an unprecedented step in the tiny Duchy, sources said Tuesday.

The Grand Duke's warning, not made in public, swiftly threatened to turn into a constitutional crisis as Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker openly voiced his disagreement.

"I cannot agree that the Grand Duke should wish not to approve a law," Juncker said on local RTL radio, adding that such a decisions would be "very serious".

"I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience. But I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force," added Juncker, who was to address deputies later in the day.

A parliamentary source said that the Grand Duke had informed party leaders on Monday that he would not sign the law.

"Grand Duke Henri does not intend to sign the euthanasia bill," which would "therefore not enter into force," RTL Luxembourg radio echoed Tuesday.

Never in Luxembourg's history has the sovereign blocked a decision agreed in parliament.

The law, which would decriminalise certain types of euthanasia is expected to be definitively adopted by the chamber at a second and final reading this month.

The Grand Duke should then normally "approve and promulgate" the law, by signing it within three months.

At its first parliamentary reading in February the draft law was narrowly approved by 30 votes for and 26 votes against.

That vote was a defeat for the Christian Social People's party, Juncker's own party, whose members are strongly opposed to the move, fearing it will make euthanasia an everyday event.

It was approved thanks to support from Socialist deputies, liberals and Greens.

"We must find a solution to get us out of this situation without starting a constitutional crisis," said Juncker, who has led the government since 1995.

He said that he had asked Grand Duke Henri, the constitutional sovereign since 2000, to inform him and party leaders of his intentions in the matter.

In the absence of an official word from the Grand Duke, Green party leader Francois Bausch said he was determined to see "the work of parliament carried out to the end".

"I hope the law will pass through parliament by the end of the year. I hope that the Grand Duke will respect the consensus which has always prevailed in Luxembourg," he told AFP.

Introduced in 2001, the euthanasia bill has provoked fierce debate in Luxembourg, where many espouse Catholic values.

The medical profession has been largely opposed to the project.

Of the European nations only the Netherlands and Belgium have legalised euthanasia, both in 2002.

The last constitutional crisis in the Grand Duchy arose in 1919 when Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide was forced to abdicate amid accusations of a pro-German stance.

After the abdication the constitutional monarchy was backed in a national referendum.

The question of Luxembourg moving to a purely formal, Scandinavian-style monarchy. has since been mooted.


0 Comments To This Article