As the head of state, Grand Duke Henri has the power to prevent the passage of a law by refusing to sign it, according to the existing constitution. He stated recently that for "reasons of conscience" he would not be able to sign the proposed law, which would allow doctors to kill their patients under certain circumstances.
After his statement provoked what the press described as a "constitutional crisis," the Grand Duke agreed to an amendment to the constitution that would make his signature a mere formality, rather than a promulgation of a law. Under the new system, he says he will be willing to sign the law, because he believes that it will no longer signify his approval.
Although the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Junker, also opposes the law, Junker claims that the vote of the nation's representatives must override the conscientious objection of the Grand Duke.
“I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience," he reportedly told the press. "But I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force."
The duke's threatened non-cooperation in the promulgation of the law would have been the second time in the last one hundred years that the veto power was used by the nation's sovereign. The last time was in 1919, when the Grand Duchess Marie-Adelaide refused to sign a law that would have reduced religious instruction in the nation's educational system.
In a similar case, the King of Belgium refused to sign his country's pro-abortion law in 1990, and the law was promulgated without his signature.
However, Luxembourg's Grand Duke has been unwilling to imitate his Belgian counterpart and resist the new law using his constitutional power. Instead, he has voluntarily given it up so that the nation's legislators can pass the law without his approval.
The law will allow doctors to kill patients diagnosed as "terminally ill" upon the patient's request, after review by two doctors and a panel of experts.
Luxembourg, which is nestled between Germany, Belgium, and France and has a population of slightly less than half a million people, is the wealthiest nation per-capita in the world, and the vast majority call themselves Catholic. However, despite a large percentage of the population that continues to cherish family values, the nation's democratically elected officials have largely rejected Catholic moral teaching in the last 30 years. Abortion, for example, has been legal since 1977.
His Royal Highness Henri, by the Grace of God, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Duke of Nassau, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Count of Sayn, Königstein, Katzenelnbogen and Diez, Burgrave of Hammerstein, Lord of Mahlberg, Wiesbaden, Idstein, Merenberg, Limburg and Eppstein.
Crown Prince Henri was sworn in as Luxembourg's new monarch October, 7 when his father, Grand Duke Jean, stepped down after 36 years at an abdication ceremony. Henri, 45, became Luxembourg's sixth grand duke since 1890, when the modern monarchy was established. His father, 79, resigned in order to hand responsibility to his son. Henri pledged allegiance in the parliament, located next door to the grand ducal palace. Afterward, he and his Cuban-born wife, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, strolled from the parliament, around the block - waving to spectators and shaking outstretched hands - and back to the palace, a Disneyesque building of turrets and wrought iron that rises above the city's narrow cobblestone streets. In a proclamation, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker's government said Henri will be ``a most worthy grand duke,'' due to his ``fine character and in-depth knowledge of his people.''