François Bausch (Minister): Minority rights and the public good
Minister for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure François Bausch says the authorities always need to balance the rights of the individual and the needs of society, but aspects of property law may need to be reviewed to ensure the Luxembourg state can achieve its housing and infrastructure goals.
What is your assessment of the dispute over the holdout 49 Boulevard Royal apartment block that had to be left out of the Royal-Hamilius development?
Luxembourg has its own legal framework regarding decision-making in a real estate condominium. In France, a qualified majority is required to decide on certain issues, while an absolute majority is needed in Luxembourg. In the case of 49 Boulevard Royal, apartment owners that did not have an interest in the real estate project blocked its development, even though they received extremely attractive offers of compensation. It might be time to review the legislation in question. A reasonable collective decision-making process, requiring a two-thirds majority, would probably make such issues more fluid and avoid repeated deadlock, as occurred in this case. This is also a constitutional matter, since it entails a revision of property rights, and notably the balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of society. A declaration of public utility can be obtained to break the deadlock, but only in certain situations.
« Property rights need to be reviewed.»
A similar problem led to long delays in completing the motorway connection between Bettembourg and Frisange ? How can such a situation arise in a country the size of Luxembourg?
The issue of the motorway route around Hellange is a different matter. It is important for the state to deal with landowners and listen to their concerns in an honest manner. In this case, the process was not carried out carefully and did not take psychology into account, which resulted in the landowners becoming frustrated and to deadlock that blocked completion of the motorway. In addition, procedures were not followed and the law favoured the landowners’ case, even when a declaration of public utility was obtained. This has brought home the lesson that the state’s actions must be irreproachable in such situations, both legally sound and reasonable. Individual rights should be protected, but should not take precedence over the public interest. But as far as the highway interchange is concerned, the expropriation process was eventually carried out.
Are further measures planned to counter abuse of minority rights?
No debate on this specific subject is currently underway. In the case of 49 Boulevard Royal, discussion took place at city level. I managed to reach a settlement with the owners on use of the surrounding construction site, because the area is subject to national legislation. However, property rights need to be reviewed, especially in the current environment where real estate and housing development are central policies of the grand duchy. In handling infrastructure developments such as highways and the Luxembourg City tram system, my ministry keeps property owners’ interest at heart. However, as a rule we do not run into opposition, since these developments often lead to an increase in property values. As a result, owners tend to be more reasonable.