The weather may be wet and cold and grey but, hey, this is Luxembourg - we didn't come here for a year-round suntan; as we say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018, let's take a few minutes to reflect and look ahead as to what's in store for us in the year ahead.
The largest issue for Luxembourg in 2018 will undoubtedly be the general / national election which is to be held in October 2018. Despite the CSV party being the largest party in parliament (23 seats), the current government is a three-way coalition between the DP (13 seats), the LSAP (13 seats) and the Greens (6 seats).
With a total of 60 deputies elected, 31 are needed for a parliamentary majority to form a government. The deputies are elected from 4 cantons across the Grand Duchy (23 from the South, 21 from the Centre, 9 from the North and 7 from the East).
The October 2017 local elections saw the LSAP lose ground, primarily to the CSV. Will this be an indication of things to come, at a national level, with possibly the CSV and DP forming a coalition (as they have just done in Luxembourg city and Esch-sur-Alzette)? If so, the CSV as the largest party would then appoint their leader, Claude Wiseler, as Prime Minister. Where would Xavier Bettel then go? Possibly he could be offered the Foreign Minister's portfolio, with Jean Asselborn understood to be seeking the European Commissioner's position...
But we are a long way from this scenario, should it play out that way. And it probably won't either. The DP, LSAP and Greens are likely to prefer to continue as they are in a three-way coalition, but even dropping two seats between them would spell the end. If that were to happen, would the CSV definitely go with the DPs? Not necessarily, so it would look like either Francois Bausch (Greens), Etienne Schneider / Jean Asselborn (LSAP), or Xavier Bettel / Pierre Gramegna (DPs) would survive.
While some would argue that the CSV party does not have much ministerial experience in its ranks, the same can be levied against the current government when they came to power in 2013.
In any case, there is likely to be no seismic shift in government policy whichever party / coalition comes to power.
With the Ban de Gasperich / Cloche d'Or starting to resemble a 2nd Kirchberg, with Auchan's 3rd Hypermarket in Luxembourg expected to open there, as well as Deloitte Luxembourg and others, including a 4-star hotel, the landscape in the south-west of the city will continue to change. However, it will not be completed in 2018, with other significant projects including the construction of the new football and rugby stadium to progress.
The finance sector will continue to serve as Luxembourg's economic backbone, currently contributing circa 34% of GDP. With the continued uncertainty over Brexit, Luxembourg is likely to see more insurance companies move some of their operations to Luxembourg, with other sub-sectors also deciding to set up here, now that the Brexit divorce negotiations are moving to the 2nd phase.
Another sector that is likely to see continued growth is the space sector, with Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, and Deputy Prime Minister, Etienne Schneider, both heavily promoting this visionary sector.
With Cactus celebrating its half-century in 2017, we will start to see other Luxembourg brands celebrating similar anniversaries in 2018, with the comparatively fledgling Luxembourg for Finance (LFF) first up in January with its 10th anniversary.
For Luxembourg's Nation Branding campaign, 2017 saw the branding come to fruition and organisations urged to use it as appropriate; while some budget has been allocated to market it nationally, will 2018 see it really be marketed internationally?
LuxTram will extend from its initial 4km stretch in Kirchberg that opened in December 2017, alongside the Glacis and to the Place de l'Etoile (at the start of the Route d'Arlon), with it not reaching Luxembourg-Gare / Bonnevoie until 2019, with extensions to Findel, Howald and the Cloche d'Or not foreseen until 2021. However, 2018 will see more roadworks in Luxembourg city centre as more tracks are laid, etc., in preparation of the opening of the next stages.
The CFL is continuing with its major infrastructure programme addressing the rail network across Luxembourg, and more initiatives are progressing for cross-border workers with currently over 185,000 people travelling into Luxembourg every day to work.
On of the challenges to new people (economic migrants) coming to Luxembourg is the lack of choice (and space) for English-language schooling and another is affordable housing.While the former is being addressed with the opening of new English-language sections in Lycées in Junglinster, Clervaux and Mondorf-les-Bains for teaching the European Baccalaureate, the latter is still a significant issue.
However, with the opening of the A7 motorway to the north of the Grand Duchy, and the 10 December opening of the Pfaffenthal railway station and the venicular to Kirchberg, access from the north of the country to the city and to Kirchberg has never been better: house prices in the north are due to rise and this could be the main area of new housing developments in the coming years.
There is currently also a lack of hotel rooms in Luxembourg, with accommodation around large conferences almost impossible to find at times. So expect some news in this sector, with a new player entering the market, and maybe even the government launching new initiatives to free up space.
Culture & Sport
With 2017 ending on a high with the Grand Theatre hosting the West End musical Evita, 2018 will see Dirty Dancing at Rockhal in January and Billy Idol in June, stars such as Noel Gallagher and Ringo Starr will perform with their bands and the Australian Pink Floyd tribute will all perform in Esch-Belval, in collaborations with Den Atelier. The Philharmonie will host a number of significant concerts in the year ahead too.
With Luxembourg's rugby team back to winning ways (after dropping down a division) and the national football team climbing up the international rankings with a series of great results in 2017, plus Gilles Muller's exploits at Brisbane and Wimbledon, will 2018 prove to be a golden year for Luxembourg in international sports? There's also the not insignificant issue of the FIFA World Cup in Russia in June-July which is sure to catch everyone's imagination.
There is so much to look forward to, with optimism, in 2018 by looking closer to home, rather than to concern ourselves with the doom and gloom of international issues such as Brexit and American politics that havve dominated the headlines and discussions during 2017.