On Wednesday evening, 20 September, over 100 business leaders came together to listen to an lively, engaged and quite spirited business-focused debate organized by AmCham and hosted by Amazon in the auditorium of their European headquarters in Kirchberg.
Skillfully moderated by very experienced independent Luxembourg Director David Arendt, former CFO of Cargolux, who introduced the party representatives, the panel discussion featured representatives of the four major political parties campaigning to be included in the next Luxembourg government following the 8 October Chamber of Delegates election.
During his opening remarks, AmCham Chairman Paul Schonenberg set the tone for the evening by explaining that this was the only business-focused event being held during the current election campaign period and AmCham initiated the event along with Amazon because they believed the success of the country depended on having a strong economy with this event therefore intended to connect leading politicians with business leaders to promote sharing of ideas and enhance cooperation. Jorrit Van der Meulen, Vice President of Amazon EU Stores, extended Amazon’s welcome to all guests and reinforced the AmCham Chairman’s remarks on keeping an open economy and regulatory certainty before turning over the debate to David Arendt.
During the following 90-minute exchange, the four political parties vigorously exchanged opinions on the importance of business activities to Luxembourg and what Luxembourg needed to do to attract and keep businesses in Luxembourg.
Finance Minister Yuriko Backes – speaking for the DP – very strongly spoke in support of the absolute necessity for Luxembourg to maintain its excellent credit rating, to avoid raising new taxes and to continue to work hard to attract and retain quality businesses domiciled in Luxembourg.
Equally strongly advocating for all efforts to strengthen the business attractiveness of Luxembourg was Laurent Mosar from the CSV, who likewise strongly articulated the need to reduce business taxes – explaining that Luxembourg was no longer viewed as the optimal preferred business location in Europe. With business taxes now higher than the EU average. He also made the point that businesses were frustrated by the extent of complicated, burdensome and time-consuming, overly bureaucratic administrative requirements which needed to be streamlined. Mr Mosar strongly advocated quick action to correct these problems to regain Luxembourg’s attractiveness as a preferred European business location and pledged these issues would have a high priority for his party if the CSV is returned to a leadership role in the coming election.
Claude Turmes, Minister for Energy & Minister for Spatial Planning (Déi Gréng) largely defended the status quo; arguing that business should pay its fair share and expressing the belief that present (or increased) levels of taxation were necessary and justified to pay for schools and other services which would be used by the business community.
Yves Cruchten, MP and President of the LSAP defended his party’s proposals to impose a national wealth tax and to reduce two hours of work each week while retaining the same level of salary.
All of the party representatives supported the indexation of salaries, although the representatives from the CSV and the DP indicated some degree of openness to consider proposals to increase implementation flexibility to address business concerns.
After allowing a short period for additional audience questions and answers, David Arendt warmly thanked all of the panel members for their engagement and their honest and spirited defense of their party positions.
In his closing remarks, AmCham Chairman Paul Schonenberg warmly thanked the panel and made a vigorous defense of the need for more engagement between the business community and government representatives to ensure the future prosperity of Luxembourg. He indicated AmCham would invite the next government to another panel engagement as soon as it is formed.
He called out and specially thanked –to strong audience applause– Minister Backes for her much-appreciated advocacy in support of the recently passed modification of law which has successfully eliminated the structural discrimination against non-EU accompanying spouses and partners of non-EU persons who already possess approved residence and work permits, by simplifying the work permit approval process to allow them easier and full access.
Also to support improved engagement between the international business community and the government, Paul Schonenberg used this event to announce the launch of an AmCham Government Relations Management Committee which will be chaired by Amazon. More news from this committee will follow very soon.
The panel discussion was followed by engaged discussion among the invited guests accompanied by food and drinks. All in all, a great event, very appropriate and much appreciated by all participants. We encourage all interested parties to watch this space and join us for the next event!