Demonstration in Place Hamilius
QUESTION POSED BY GUY FOETZ
I was approached by the organisers of a demonstration – the women's march – that was scheduled to take place on 8 March 2023 in Place Hamilius. The organisers of the event received an email from the City's Service Espace public, fêtes et marchés (Public Spaces, Festivals and Markets Department) notifying them that the owner of Place Hamilius did not want demonstrations to be held there. I would like to remind you that an instrument on the use of Place Hamilius through a 75-year emphyteutic lease was filed with the Municipal Council during its meeting on 15 December 2014. The déi Lénk group had voted against this agreement, asserting that a public space should not be turned over to private individuals. The mayor had assured the municipal councillors that the agreement contained provisions guaranteeing that the public nature of Place Hamilius would be preserved. The response that the organisers of the event received from the Service Espace public, fêtes et marchés seems to call into question this assurance given by the College of Aldermen. Meanwhile, Alderman Goldschmidt told the "Lëtzebuerger Land" newspaper that the agreement specifies that "demonstrations in the square require the authorisation of the mayor, and the holder of the emphyteutic rights may not refuse." The mayor confirmed to me that the Service Espace public, fêtes et marchés had made an error and that demonstrations could take place in Place Hamilius.
I welcome this positive development but want to point out that Article 2 of the City of Luxembourg's general regulations on public order and safety (Règlement général de police) states that "processions that wish to make use of a public thoroughfare must file a declaration to that effect with the mayor's office, in principle, at least eight days before the planned date of the event." The right to demonstrate is enshrined in the Constitution. The mayor therefore does not need to issue an authorisation; a simple declaration by the organisers is sufficient. What are the reasons for this error by the Service Espace public, fêtes et marchés? The demonstration may not only start in Place Hamilius, it can even take place there entirely.
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY MAYOR LYDIE POLFER
Place Hamilius is a public space that is regulated solely by the City. The developer of the Royal Hamilius project is responsible for the stability of the square, which sits on top of a vast underground car park. Place Hamilius is subject to the same rules as the other public spaces. Organisers must declare their events to the City beforehand, and the City then notifies the police, which is in charge of maintaining public order. The exact way in which any event will proceed is determined in conjunction with the City and the police. This also ensures that there are not two events happening in the same place at the same time. Demonstrations have almost always been peaceful, except for the unrest that occurred during the 2021 Christmas markets.
In a registered letter dated 30 October 2019, the developers of the Royal Hamilius project were reminded that due to the entry into force of the aforementioned traffic regulations, and without affecting the enforcement of the provisions of the deed of emphyteutic rights, Place Hamilius will be part of the public thoroughfare, as regulated by the City's Règlement général de police (general regulations on public order and safety) and its Règlement concernant l'établissement d'étalages et de terrasses sur la voie publique ainsi que d'autres occupations de la voie publique (regulation on the installation of merchandise displays and terraces, and other obstructions on public thoroughfares), which should be considered as special regulations for Place Hamilius. Place Hamilius is therefore a public space that is managed by the City, and where demonstrations that are permitted in a democratic society may be held, provided that they abide by the provisions of the general regulations on public order.
Distribution of iodine tablets
QUESTION POSED BY FRANÇOIS BENOY
In its circular no. 4180 of 29 September 2022 to municipal administrations, the Ministry of Home Affairs ( Ministère de l'Intérieur) explains the role of the municipal authorities in the event of a nuclear accident, and specifically as regards the distribution of iodine tablets. In non-crisis situations, the emergency response plan stipulates that the municipal authorities should distribute tablets on an ongoing basis. Each municipality must have a municipal plan for distributing iodine tablets so they know what to do in the event of a crisis. Municipal authorities have complete autonomy in deciding how and where tablets are distributed.
How is the distribution of iodine tablets organised in Luxembourg City?
Is everyone who goes to the Bierger-Center to declare their new place of residence automatically offered a blister pack of iodine tablets and an information brochure?
Are tablets also available to other residents if needed?
How many blister packs have been distributed in past years?
Does the City have a municipal plan for distributing iodine tablets?
What are the outlines of this plan?
How is the distribution of iodine tablets to schools, crèches and foyers scolaires organised?
Are there any special measures or procedures for Luxembourg City due to its proximity to the Cattenom nuclear power plant (25 km away) and its status as the country's capital?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY MAYOR LYDIE POLFER
In accordance with circular no. 4180 of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Bierger-Center offers a blister pack of iodine tablets and an information brochure to everyone who comes to the population office to declare their new place of residence. All Luxembourg City residents may get a blister pack of iodine tablets without going through any formalities – for example, if they lose the blister pack they received. The Bierger-Center currently has a stockpile of around 1,800 blister packs of iodine tables. Around 1,100 blister packs of tablets were handed out in 2022.
The circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs is well intentioned, but it fails to take reality into account, given that fewer and fewer people are going in person to declare a change of residence, preferring instead to use the government platform (myguichet.lu) or the municipality's platform (City of Luxembourg e-forms portal).
People often ask City staff questions of a medical nature, but as our staff are not physicians or pharmacists, they are unable to provide answers.
In Belgium, it is pharmacies, not the population offices, that provide households with iodine tablets.
As for schools, crèches, foyers scolaires and other institutions, each building has a stockpile of iodine tablets to accommodate the number of people who are typically in the building. This number is adjusted annually at the beginning of the school year.
There are currently 6,150 boxes of tablets for foyers scolaires (33 locations), 1,020 for crèches (9 locations), 5,623 for schools (30 locations) and 460 for other institutions (Naturhaus Kockelscheuer and Conservatoire).
In the event of a nuclear alarm, each child will receive one or two tablets (depending on their age), and may take home the rest of the box for the other members of their family.
It seems that iodine tablets are effective only for people under the age of 30.
Modernisation of marriage ceremonies in Luxembourg City
QUESTION POSED BY FRANÇOIS BENOY
While 498 civil marriage ceremonies were performed in Luxembourg City in 2019, this number dropped to 399 in 2020 due to the pandemic. Apparently there was a record number of marriage ceremonies in 2022. How many marriage and civil partnership ceremonies were performed in 2022?
In light of the decline in residents' religious practice, in 2022 lawmakers made adjustments to allow for ceremonies that are more modern, flexible and personalised.
The Municipal Council now has the power to determine locations other than City Hall for the ceremony. To date, the City of Luxembourg has not exercised this new option.
Why hasn't the College of Aldermen suggested other locations to the Municipal Council, such as monuments, halls or parks?
More than two years ago, I suggested expanding the time slots for marriage and civil partnership ceremonies (e.g., allowing them on Saturdays, like other municipalities) and introducing, like the city of Esch-sur-Alzette, a system for video recording and livestreaming marriage or civil partnership ceremonies, which not only provides a memento of the occasion but also allows family members who live in distant countries to attend the ceremony.
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY MAYOR LYDIE POLFER
In 2022, 544 marriage ceremonies (up 10% from 2019) and 547 civil partnership ceremonies were performed in Luxembourg City. Only 7 partnership ceremonies were performed in the wedding hall; the other partnerships were entered into through an administrative procedure in the office.
Residents are satisfied with the current selection of halls. The City has not received any requests to hold marriage ceremonies at other locations.
The purpose of the law was not to allow marriage ceremonies to be performed in hotels, parks and so on, but rather to empower the Municipal Council to determine an additional location for marriage ceremonies. In addition to the beautiful wedding hall in Luxembourg City Hall – which is popular among residents –, the Municipal Council has now designated a second hall for marriage ceremonies, namely, the Salle des cérémonies in the Bierger-Center.
Given that there are so many marriage ceremonies, it is impossible to use buildings such as the Cercle Municipal or other City-owned buildings, where many other events are held.
In Luxembourg City, marriage ceremonies take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Extending the time slots would require that more civil servants work on Saturdays – bearing in mind that the Bierger-Center is open on Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30 for declarations of births and deaths – and that enough municipal councillors or aldermen be available on Saturdays to perform the marriage ceremonies.
There are very few requests to perform marriage ceremonies outside the existing time slots – and specifically on Saturday mornings – given that the number of religious marriage ceremonies, which often take place on Saturday afternoons, has plummeted. The current system works very well and people are generally happy with it, so we do not anticipate any changes at this time.
Office social headcounts and offices
QUESTION POSED BY CATHY FAYOT
The new legal framework allows the social welfare offices to hire additional staff. Luxembourg City's Office social (Social Welfare Office), which currently has 48 positions, is planning to make several new hires.
At the Office social, a 13-member team is responsible for supporting people who receive the REVIS (revenu d'inclusion sociale – social inclusion income). The new offices on Rue de Strasbourg will have only 54 workstations. This site was supposed to house not only the Office social but also the City's Service Logement (Housing Department) to make it easier for these entities to cooperate.
How will the Office social staff be accommodated? Are there solutions to ensure effective cooperation between the Office social and the Service Logement in order to better support clients? Wouldn't it be preferable to reserve the Rue de Strasbourg building for the Office social and to put the Service Logement in another location, ideally near Rue de Strasbourg?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN MAURICE BAUER
Currently, the building at 90a, rue de Strasbourg will have enough space as of April 2023 to accommodate both the Office social – except for the agents régionaux d'inclusion sociale (regional social inclusion officers unit – ARIS) – and the Service Logement.
The Rue de Strasbourg building was initially purchased to house the Service Logement and not the Office social. It was decided that these two departments – which perform complementary duties – should be placed under one roof in order to maximise their cooperation in the clients' best interests.
Since that decision, the staffing and office needs of the Office social and Service Logement have increased, and particularly since in 2015.
The new legislation, which allocated additional human resources to the social welfare offices, further increased the need for office space. However, in light of the state of the job market, it probably will not be possible to fill all the required positions in the coming years.
As of 1 April 2023, the Office social will be employing 52 people, 39 of whom will be working at Rue de Strasbourg, while the offices of the 13 ARIS officers will remain at 13, rue Beaumont.
The Service Logement has already had to move four times and is now making do with a very cramped space.
The ground floor, first floor and part of the third floor of the building at 90a, rue de Strasbourg will be occupied by the Office social, while the second floor and part of the third floor will be reserved for the Service Logement.
The building is scheduled to be officially inaugurated on 26 April 2023. The relevant City departments have been tasked with looking for an additional building that will eventually be able to accommodate the Service Logement or the Office social, including the ARIS officers.
Administrative Tribunal ruling on property taxes
QUESTION POSED BY ELISABETH MARGUE
The Municipal Council has discussed ways of making more use of building plots. A potential increase in the collection rate of the property tax to be applied to plots in category B6 was discussed in this context.
On 24 August 2020, the City of Diekirch Municipal Council decided to considerably increase the B6 collection rate. On 10 February 2023, the Administrative Tribunal nullified the Diekirch Municipal Council's decision. How does the City of Luxembourg College of Aldermen view this ruling? Does it plan to respond to it?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY ALDERMAN LAURENT MOSAR
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced that would not appeal the decision handed down by the Administrative Tribunal, which ruled the that the Diekirch Municipal Council's decision was anti-constitutional on the grounds that it failed to uphold the principle of equality and proportionality of certain taxes and rules.
The City of Luxembourg College of Aldermen believes that its assessment of the situation has been borne out. By way of a motion, the opposition members of the Municipal Council asked the College of Aldermen to follow the example of the municipality of Diekirch by increasing the B6 collection rate. The ruling handed down by the Administrative Tribunal demonstrates that the City was right in not following up on this request. Had it done so, the City would certainly have received a number of claims for damages.
The Minister for Home Affairs explained her decision not to appeal the ruling by saying that doing so would not do anything to help resolve the housing crisis. The minister has thus confirmed the position of the City of Luxembourg College of Aldermen.
In any case, the B6 collection rate will be done away with as part of the property tax reform.