The dawn of a new year is often a good opportunity to reflect and look ahead to the future. So, let us have a look at what 2023 has in store for Luxembourg.
From a global perspective, 2023 started much the same as 2022 ended: Russia's war of aggression rages on in Ukraine, China struggles to contain COVID-19 (and a new Omicron variant has reared its head in the United States), surging food and energy prices continue to impact households and businesses, and climate change (which took a backseat first to COVID-19 and then to war and the energy crisis) remains one of the greatest, if not the greatest, global threats.
In Luxembourg, a cultural melting pot and one of the world's most global economies, European and global challenges are undeniably present, although the country's approach to such challenges (and indeed the impact of such challenges) may differ slightly to that of its neighbours.
Some notable events and changes to expect in the Grand Duchy this year include:
According to the latest available data from Luxembourg's statistics portal, STATEC, the annual inflation rate stood at 5.9% in November 2022 (down from 6.9% the previous month – a decrease attributed mainly to a drop in fuel prices). Inflation figures for December 2022 are expected in the coming days. In the meantime, STATEC has forecast historically high inflation of 6.4% for 2022 and around 3.4% in 2023. The statistics portal also forecast a slight increase in unemployment, from 4.8% in 2022 to 5.1% in 2023. In the current economic context, real GDP growth is expected to have reached 1.7% in 2022 and to reach 1.5% in 2023.
Up to three wage indexations are possible this year, according to STATEC's forecasts, with one likely to be triggered in the first quarter. These include the wage indexation foreseen for July 2022 but postponed to April 2023 under a tripartite agreement.
Changes which already came into force at the start of this year include: a 2.2% increase in pensions; a 3.2% increase in the social minimum wage, social inclusion income and severely disabled allowance; a reduction in VAT rates (from 17% to 16% for the normal VAT rate, from 14% to 13% for the intermediate rate and from 8% to 7% for the reduced rate, applicable until the end of the year); the extension of the cost of living allowance and energy bonus to 2023; an increase in the teleworking allowance for cross-border workers living in France (cross-border workers residing in France and working in Luxembourg may now work 34 days - up from 29 - outside the Grand Duchy without being taxed in France).
Moreover, under the latest tripartite agreement, the 15% gas price cap (calculated based on September 2022 prices) will remain in place until December 2023.
Eligible voters will go to the polls twice this year, as Luxembourg holds both its municipal and legislative (parliamentary) elections just months apart. The former will take place on Sunday 11 June 2023, with all residents over the age of eighteen (including for the first time foreign nationals having lived in Luxembourg for less than five years) eligible to register to vote (deadline: 18 April 2023). Municipal elections take place every six years and see residents directly elect their municipal councillors. Ahead of this year's elections, the Centre d'Etude et de Formation Interculturelles et Sociales (CEFIS) is organising, with the support of the Ministry of Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region, multilingual training sessions for "multipliers" (people who spread the word within their communities).
The next parliamentary elections will take place on Sunday 8 October 2023. Luxembourg nationals over the age of eighteen are eligible to vote (mandatory for all registered voters) for the country's 60 MPs. The MPs are elected for a five-year term by proportional representation in four constituencies: 23 MPs in the South, 21 in the Centre, nine in the North and seven in the East. 31 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (Luxembourg's parliament) are needed for a majority; currently, the Christian Social People's Party (CSV) has 21 seats, the Democratic Party (DP) has twelve, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) has ten, the Greens have nine, the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR) has four, the Pirates have two and the Left has two. The current government is a coalition of the DP, the LSAP and the Greens.
Current Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has confirmed that he would be open to running for a third term should the opportunity arise. A political opinion poll ("Sonndesfro") conducted by Ilres at the end of 2022 indicated that the current coalition government would retain its majority in the Chamber of Deputies but saw Health Minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) emerge as the most popular politician. Whilst we cannot rely on opinion polls to predict election outcomes, could Luxembourg be headed towards electing its first female prime minister? A lot can change in nine months, but it will be interesting to see how the various political parties approach their election campaigns this year, particularly in the context of crises.
Culture & sport
2023 is also a year to look forward to various cultural and sporting events in Luxembourg. Upcoming cultural highlights include: the first Shakespeare Schools Festival Luxembourg on 12 January; Luxembourgish saxophone quartet Saxitude's Philharmonie premiere on 14 January; the sixth edition of the RESET jazz festival in Clausen and Grund (Luxembourg City) from 23 to 28 January; the return of the Luxembourg City Film Festival from 2 to 12 March; the Zeltik Celtic music festival at Opderschmelz cultural centre in Dudelange from 9 to 11 March. Another highlight (for those who already have their tickets) is sure to be Robbie Williams' sold-out open-air concert at Luxexpo The Box on 11 July 2023.
Turning our attention to the world of sport, Rugby Club Luxembourg is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a gala dinner and various other events during the weekend of 9 to 10 June 2023, and Luxembourg will play various UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying matches this year: Luxembourg (Group J) will host games at Stade de Luxembourg on 26 March (vs Portugal), 17 June (vs Liechtenstein), 8 September (vs Iceland), 16 October (vs Slovakia), 16 November (vs Bosnia and Herzegovina). Luxembourg will also play away games on 23 March (vs Slovakia), 20 June (vs Bosnia and Herzegovina), 11 September (vs Portugal), 13 October (vs Iceland), 19 November 2023 (vs Liechtenstein). The Euro 2024 tournament will take place from 14 June to 14 July 2024 in Germany.
Luxexpo The Box will also host several major events this year, from the hybrid Space Resources Week from 19 to 21 April (last year's hybrid event brought together about 1,000 people) and ICT Spring, under the theme "Time for Change", on 29 and 30 June to Springbreak Luxembourg from 9 to 12 March 2023.
At Chronicle.lu, we pride ourselves on our close community links in Luxembourg. 2022 saw us partner with LUkraine asbl to highlight the work of this non-profit organisation in supporting those affected by the war in Ukraine (including Ukrainian refugees in Luxembourg). In 2023, we will continue to cover impactful community stories, from Ukraine and refugees to professional chambers, clubs and non-profits, various embassies, small businesses and startups, etc.
On the subject of asylum seekers and refugees, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, in his role as Minister of Immigration and Asylum, recently announced the upcoming opening or extension of refugee shelters in 2023. Nevertheless, there has been some controversy lately regarding the conditions in such shelters: a reception centre in Luxembourg-Kirchberg had to close its doors and its occupants were relocated just before Christmas due to freezing temperatures, and Minister Asselborn recently addressed the issue of drinking water supply.
The start of 2023 sees a change in leadership at the University of Luxembourg: as of 1 January 2023, former vice-rector Jens Kreisel is the new rector of the university. He succeeds Stéphane Pallage who decided against running for a second term.
True to its international nature, Luxembourg will be represented around the world, no doubt once again by various government officials and members of the Grand Ducal family, but also through various trade missions and exhibitions organised by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in 2023. Destinations include Senegal in February, Saudi Arabia in March and Ireland in May.
In addition, 2023 should see the opening of a Luxembourg Embassy in Seoul - announced during Luxembourg's official economic mission to South Korea at the end of November 2022.