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Dieschbourg resigns following an investigation into the building permit

Scandal

Environment minister resigns after controversy over 2019 approval of permit given to party colleague

Environment minister resigns after controversy over 2019 approval of permit given to party colleague

Carole Dieschbourg, Minister of the Environment

Photo credit: Chris Karaba

Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg resigned from her post on Friday morning after the prosecution asked parliament to lift her immunity in an investigation into the approval of a building permit granted to a party colleague in 2019.

Claude Turmes, Minister of Energy, will act as interim replacement for Dieschbourg.

Dieschbourg has denied any wrongdoing in connection with granting the permit to the former mayor of Differdange, fellow Green Party politician Roberto Traversini, for a garden shed he built in 2019, and reiterated that denial on Friday.

“We don’t have time to review all this in parliament,” Dieschbourg said at Friday’s press conference, saying greater challenges lie ahead. The only option left, she said, apart from having her immunity waived by parliament – ​​which she initially supported – was to resign so she could face prosecutors.

A minister offering his resignation following a scandal, common in other countries such as Germany, is a rare case in Luxembourg. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel brushed aside criticism earlier this year when a journalistic expose revealed he had plagiarized the vast majority of his thesis. Bettel, who asked the University of Nancy to rescind his postgraduate degree following the reports, continued in his post despite anger from opposition parties.

In 2019, Traversini renounced the construction of a large garden shed in a protected area, which was retroactively approved by the Ministry of the Environment. Although wildlife loss permits may be granted retroactively for regular construction sites, this is not normally the case for protected natural areas.

“The prosecution has made a formal request to parliament to waive my ministerial immunity in the context of the preliminary investigation into the ‘Gaardenhaischen’ case,” Dieschbourg said in a statement released before his resignation.

“Since 2019, personally and through my lawyer, I have repeatedly emphasized that I support this investigation,” Dieschbourg said.

The prosecution had previously seized documents from the Ministry of the Environment as part of an investigation into the behavior of Dieschbourg. CSV lawmaker Michel Wolter, among others, accused her of violating a nature protection law and showing favoritism towards Traversini.

Dieschburg has also been at the center of the media and Parliament this year over a 100 million euro contract which his ministry handed over to a waste management company after a legal opinion concluded that it would not there was no legal basis for awarding the tender.

Only parliament has the “discretionary power to accuse a member of the government”, the prosecution said, citing the Grand Duchy’s constitution.

If Dieschburg had not resigned, parliament could have taken action, such as sending the case to court or setting up a commission of inquiry, which would require two-thirds of the vote.

The decision whether or not to lift immunity is taken by simple majority at a public sitting of parliament. The Dieschburg Greens are part of the majority government coalition with the LSAP and the Democratic Party.

Alex Bodry, member of the Council of State and constitutional expert, told the public channel 100.7 on Friday morning that the procedure which leads to the formal indictment of a minister by Parliament has never been applied before.

A proposal for constitutional reform, not yet approved, aims to remove the right of Parliament to waive immunity.


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