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Luxembourg report Luxembourg report
by Euro Reporter
2009-04-13 08:38:00
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The land without a Conscience

Luxembourg decided to carve a name for itself in history this March 2009. It officially became the fourth country in the world to legalize euthanasia. Yet there was a roadblock that Luxembourg’s Parliament had to overcome in order to put the law into effect: the conscience of their Grand Duke. They chose to swerve around him instead.

When the bill legalizing euthanasia first landed on the Grand Duke Henri’s desk he announced that he was not going to sign it into effect. It was a law against his conscience, he said, and as head of state he had an obligation to protect life in his land.   The reaction of Luxembourg’s Parliament to this refusal was truly shocking. They didn’t take the time to consider why and for what reasons their ruler reached the decision he did, they didn’t bother to enter into a debate on the issue of euthanasia. There was no condemnation of the Grand Duke’s position as erroneous or deformed. All of that would have required too much messy ethical discussion. The solution arrived at was far easier and infinitely more polite: a simple vote to sidestep the inconvenience and continue on with the agreed agenda.

Parliament therefore offered their ruler an option: either sign the law or give up your power to put law into effect. Refusing to sacrifice the lives of innocent subjects for the allure of political power, the Henri opted for the latter.


Escape tax blacklist

Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland won't end up on a tax haven blacklist as they have agreed to international rules on exchanging information on tax fraud, European Union leaders said on Friday. Leaders of the G20 group of countries meet in London on April 2 and will discuss how to tackle countries that fail to cooperate properly in tax fraud cases. Germany and France have called for non-cooperative countries to be put on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's blacklist.

But last Friday Luxembourg, Austria and non-EU Switzerland hurriedly signed up to international OECD standards setting out commitments to exchanging tax information with other countries. "As far as I can see there will not be such a list at the London meeting," German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told reporters at the end of a two-day EU summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could not imagine any country that accepted OECD standards for exchanging information on tax matters would be on a blacklist but the mere talk of this "virtual list" had already had positive effects.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said every country should sign up to principles that require tax information be provided on request. "I welcome the fact that Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg, Hong Kong (and) Singapore all have in the last few weeks decided that they will sign up to the principles of tax information on request," Brown said. "The next stage is that bilateral agreements are signed to make that possible and a reality," he added.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said following the Grand Duchy's decision to sign up to OECD rules that he had talks with Steinbrueck and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "The president of the republic was the first one to tell his colleagues Saturday night that in no case should Luxembourg is on the list as we have agreed on the OECD framework," Juncker told reporters. "That means exchange of information on demand and on request. That is the position and we would like ... that this will become the position of the European Union. We are not prepared to go further," Juncker said.

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