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Luxembourg to hold referendum on constitution changes

Luxembourg will hold a referendum in 2015 on plans to modernise the small but wealthy EU nation, including whether foreigners should get voting rights, the prime minister said Monday.

Premier Xavier Bettel, who ended Jean-Claude Juncker’s 18 years in power at the end of 2013, said there would be four questions in the vote to be held in May or June next year, and the results would decide possible changes to the constitution.

Luxembourgers will be asked whether the voting age should be lowered to 16, whether foreigners should be allowed to vote after they have lived there for 10 years, whether the state should continue to pay the salaries of religious officials, and whether to limit the mandate of members of the government to 10 years.

“The aim to is find out what kind of Luxembourg we want for the future,” said Bettel, 41, a former mayor of Luxembourg city who has pledged to modernise the Grand Duchy, one of the smallest member states in the EU.

Liberal leader Bettel has headed a coalition government with the Socialist and Green parties since October 2013 when he succeeded Juncker, who is now set to take over as head of the European Commission.

Juncker’s time in power from 1995 to 2013 made him Europe’s longest serving leader.

A coalition agreement signed in December 2013 commits the new government to a modernisation programme following the Juncker years.

Public financing for religious officials is a sensitive issue in majority-Roman Catholic Luxembourg. The state pays the wages and pensions of the officials of major faiths such as Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism, but not those of Islam, which has the second most adherents in Luxembourg after Catholicism.

Meanwhile foreigners make up 43 percent of the population of Luxembourg, making it a crucial issue as to whether or not they are allowed to vote.