No. 73 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020
40 SMALL AND MID-SIZED BUSINESS Lex Delles takes stock of the government’s economic recovery efforts
62 FUNDS INDUSTRY How has covid-19 affected alternative investment funds?
Happy to be back in the office? 5 453000
After the pandemic, what do staffers think about physically heading back to work?
Alternatives from a different angle AIFMD reform: Get informed. Be proactive.
#FinanceInFineHands Vincent Lebrun, Alternatives Leader
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© 2020 PricewaterhouseCoopers, Société coopérative. All rights reserved. In this document, “PwC” or “PwC Luxembourg” refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers which is a member firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each member firm of which is a separate legal entity. PwC IL cannot be held liable in any way for the acts or omissions of its member firms.
No. 73 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020
40 SMALL AND MID-SIZED BUSINESS Lex Delles takes stock of the government’s economic recovery efforts
62 FUNDS INDUSTRY How has covid-19 affected alternative investment funds?
Happy to be back in the office? 5 453000
After the pandemic, what do staffers think about physically heading back to work?
ILLUSTRATING DELANO The cover for this edition was illustrated by Luis Demano-who was not chosen merely for his surname. Demano is a cartoonist who lives in Valencia, where, besides drawing, he is a professor in two masters of professional illustration programmes. His latest book, “Illustrated History of Rock”, has already been translated into five languages.
There is a phenomenon in the music business that critics label “Difficult Second Album Syndrome”. It is most often experienced by young bands who unexpectedly explode onto the scene with a stunning debut record that shifts the music landscape. Their follow-up more often than not disappoints and confounds fans by eschewing the sound that made them popular in the first place. Difficult second term syndrome is not uncommon in politics--Tony Blair’s hugely misjudged support of George W. Bush’s Iraq policy springs to mind. It is certainly being suffered, to a not insignificant degree, by the current Luxembourg coalition led by Xavier Bettel. The second DP-LSAP-Déi Gréng government has endured personnel misfortune since it took office a little under two years ago. Felix Braz’s heart attack in the summer of 2019, for example, robbed the Green Party of one of its most solid ministers and was the catalyst for a reshuffle of portfolios. And Étienne Schneider’s decision to quit government sparked another reshuffle for LSAP ministers, though one that did have the good fortune of putting Paulette Lenert in charge of health. However, several policy decisions--many of which are hangovers from the “Gambia” coalition’s first term--have proven to be what can generously be called missteps. The public spat over the spiralling costs of the LuxeoSys military satellite project has been embarrassing and has dented Luxembourg’s reputation on the international stage. The drawn-out saga over the Fage yoghurt factory will also have done little positive for Luxembourg’s image as an attractive location for industry and a good place to do business. On a more local scale, a failure to respond to the financial problems faced by community broadcaster Ara is also shameful. The cost of saving Ara is not beyond the means of the government and the coalition needs to wake up and recognise the crucial role of the radio station in bridging Luxembourg’s diverse communities. Where the government has, for the most part, led with compassion and efficiency in meeting the unprecedented challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic, ministers have been left drained from the effort of managing not only the health crisis but the economic downturn. Continuing coronavirus uncertainty and the spectre of worse to come before it gets better means that, as this second term enters its third year, there is much that the coalition needs to do to ensure it ends up with a “Nevermind” rather than a dud like the “Second Coming”.
Duncan Roberts Editor-in-chief
Letter from the editor
Difficult second term syndrome
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October/November 2020 Reporting on the community
Analysis of business, the economy and politics
A guide to culture and lifestyle
READING POTTER IN LUXEMBOURGISH
HUNGER FOR CULTURE Neimënster’s Ainhoa Achutegui on what the public and artists need
11 FIT AND SHE OWNS IT
A PAUSE TO PLAY
14 MIND THE GAP
28 Cover story
16 THE FABRIC OF LIFE
18 In my suitcase
FROZEN MEMORIES What Valeriya Pichurina brought when she moved here
HAPPY TO BE BACK IN THE OFFICE? Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, back to work we physically go... but how do we feel about it?
40 LESSONS LEARNED Delano talks covid-19 recovery with the SME minister Lex Delles
44 BACK TO THE ROOTS Local food producers experiencing a revival
THE 8TH CONTINENT Roxane Rajabali and Jeff Erpelding on Madagascar connections
WHO YOU GONNA CALL? Inside fire & rescue service’s 112 centre
COMMUNITY & NETWORKING
INCREASING SUPPLY Housing minister Henri Kox details plans to make homes more affordable
56 BRINGING CLARITY TO GREEN INVESTING New EU rules could reshape ‘sustainable’ funds
62 Alternative funds
THE CHALLENGES ACCORDING TO ESMA
64 ESMA PROPOSALS FOR AIFMD REFORM
86 Festive foods
MY FAVOURITE THINGS Check out these recipes
92 Restaurant review
DE PEFFER KÄR
94 Kids page
PRIVATE EQUITY & COVID
68 REAL ESTATE & COVID
72 PRIVATE DEBT & COVID
98 Auntie Eleanor
MASKING THE ISSUE Our advice columnist on covid-19, Christmas presents and community radio
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Write to PO Box 728 L-2017 Luxembourg Offices 10 rue des Gaulois, Luxembourg-Bonnevoie ISSN 2220-5535 Web www.maisonmoderne.com Founder and chairman Mike Koedinger CEO Geraldine Knudson Administrative and financial director Etienne Velasti CONTENTS Phone (+352) 20 70 70-150 Fax (+352) 29 66 19 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher Geraldine Knudson Editorial development director Nathalie Reuter Editor-in-chief Duncan Roberts (email@example.com) Desk editor Aaron Grunwald (firstname.lastname@example.org) Journalists Jess Bauldry (email@example.com), Lynn Feith (Lynn.firstname.lastname@example.org), Natalie Gerhardstein (email@example.com), Cordula Schnuer (firstname.lastname@example.org) Contributor Stephen Evans Photography Romain Gamba, Nader Ghavami, Jan Hanrion, Lala La Photo, Patricia Pitsch, Mike Zenari, Matic Zorman Proofreading Pauline Berg, Lisa Cacciatore, Sarah Lambolez, Manon Méral, Elena Sebastiani
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EU-UK trade deal-where are we at?
Company culture playbook: what changed during covid?
Luxembourg MEP Christophe Hansen
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The Journal Reporting on the community
Steve Karier is the Luxembourgish voice of Harry Potter
Reading Potter in Luxembourgish Before Luxembourg actor Steve Karier was invited to be the voice for the audiobook, he’d never read Harry Potter. “My daughter never had an interest in fantasy stories, so we didn’t have a single Harry Potter book in the house,” he recalls. The hugely popular books penned by UK author J. K. Rowling have been translated into around 80 languages. Luxembourgish joined that list when translator Florence Berg took on the task for Kairos Edition. Den Harry Potter an den Alchimistesteen (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
sold well but, Karier points out, Luxembourg “people find it difficult to read their own language. They speak it the way they learned it.” Karier was an obvious choice to read the audiobook, having voiced a handful of Luxembourgish books in the past, notably Michel Rodange’s national epic Renert. He finally had a chance to find out what the fuss was all about. “It’s a nice story, good reading and it’s a pretty good translation,” Karier said. In this version, the translator created comical Luxembourg versions for the words and
places first invented by the author. While the original character names remain unchanged, there are local jokes, for instance the giant Hagrid is described as hailing from Steinfort. In 2019, Karier travelled to Berlin where, because of budget constraints, he had just three-and-a-half days to record the nine-and-a-half hour audiobook. “It’s exhausting if you have to do 100 pages a day.” The audiobook was eventually released in December 2019 and joins a small → but growing library of around
Source → Vitalbriefing
↑ Pierre Gramegna The DP finance minister, speaking about covid-19 at an Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry conference, 14 September 2020. Gramegna continued: “We have borrowed substantially and been very generous. But obviously, the financial situation for this year doesn’t look good.”
16 ebooks in Luxembourgish. As lockdown eases, Karier is coordinating a national audiobook tour to raise the profile. He believes it will be of interest to Luxembourgers, but also a helpful device for learners of Luxembourgish who may already have read the book in another language. “The subject is known so you can still listen and follow the story in the Luxembourgish book.” If the audio version sells well, the actor will record the second book in the series. “Then they will finish translating the third and continue,” he said. “It will be sad not to try our very best to complete the series.” Like many artists the world over, the pandemic meant some of the actor’s scheduled jobs were cancelled. Among them was the annual Monodrama Festival. “The government was generous, we kept funding and [were] paid as if the festival had happened,” he said. Despite this, he has positive memories of lockdown in Luxembourg--he lost eight kilos by eating better and cycling. Karier also started a new project making radio plays out of American crime novels, in German, for Swiss radio. With so much of his work based abroad, including an upcoming one-man show which he will tour in Germany, Karier is at the whim of quarantines and border closures. Thanks to lockdown, though, he is philosophical. “I think if it doesn’t work out, I just don’t do it. I’m important and my well-being is important.” ×
Fitness fanatic and entrepreneur Denisa Šustalová has big ambitions for her gym membership app
Fit and she owns it
 Bibliothèque Nationale du Luxembourg
Romanian businesswoman Denisa Šustalová’s startup, which connects
Jess Bauldry Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
customers with local gyms and fitness studios, was hit hard by the health crisis lockdown earlier this year. But Swiftr is up and running again, and she hopes the next few months will help raise brand awareness as people return to the gym. Denisa only launched the Swiftr app in January. The app allows clients, who join for a sum not that much more expensive than many gym memberships, access to around 40 different fitness studios, yoga
classes, martial arts trainings and more across the grand duchy. A fitness fanatic and an ambitious entrepreneur, when she moved to Luxembourg, Denisa says she was training six times a week. But living out in Consdorf, getting to the gyms she wanted to train at often involved a 45-minute journey. What if she could simply switch and change gyms whenever she felt like it? That would allow her to go to a gym nearby or attend a class in a different discipline that → would give her workout week a bit
“On day 1 of the crisis I decided: this is not a time to save.”
Facts & figures about Luxembourg
POSSIBLE 1 & 2 CHARACTER
The UN children’s agency ranked Luxembourg
DOT LU DOMAINS
in the top 15 (out of 41 countries) on the mental and physical health and education of youngsters.
Luxembourg’s website registration operator opened up super short Luxembourg web addresses for the first time in 20 years.
PENSION INCREASE IN 2021
A scheme to offset the cost of buying
Retirees will get a smaller rise next year,
an electric or non-electric bicycle aided
compared to 2019 and 2018
7,204 cyclists, as of this summer.
(which were both 1.5%).
Findel airport, 4 September
Duncan Roberts photo Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
Sources → Unicef → Restena Foundation → Carole Dieschbourg, environment minister → Romain Schneider, social security minister
of variety. As Denisa researched how she could offer a solution and build a business from this germ of an idea, thanks to some Nordic friends here in Luxembourg she came across Swiftr in Sweden. The app had been founded in Stockholm in 2016 by Fanny Sjöström and Johanna Sjögren and was enjoying success--it has over 300 fitness venues in its Swedish portfolio. Denisa, who has an education background in business and economy and worked in real estate in her native Prague, soon convinced Fanny and Johanna that Luxembourg was the ideal market for Swiftr’s first expansion outside of Sweden. A year later, she had created the company and was ready to launch as a first mover in the grand duchy. Her passion for the app speaks volumes. “Instead of paying several memberships for yoga, martial arts or gyms, it gives you the freedom to train, and you don’t have to be committed to one place. I see it more like a community and experience app than a fitness app,” she explained during an interview in February. Lockdown was a “complete shock”, says Denisa now. “I had to design a very strict agenda to follow every day to ensure I maintained my positive mindset and that my view of life wasn’t completely damaged due to all the restrictions.” As for the app, she worked with the gyms to find innovative ways for them to connect with customers. “We did manage to organise streaming training sessions with few gyms and studios. But it takes time to change training behaviours.” But the pandemic has also presented Swiftr and gyms with an opportunity, she thinks. “I strongly believe that many people who both normally work out or never did work out before on a regular basis would like to get fit and build immune system, on top of feeling good.” Still in her early 20s, Denisa’s ambition is matched by her attitude to life. “I’m very young, but I’m very serious about what I’m doing,” she says. She doesn’t go out and party or allow herself to be distracted by the sort of things that can preoccupy her contemporaries. “If you see my schedule, it’s work, work, work seven days a week. I’m sure that if you want to achieve something in the future, everything is possible. But you have to have discipline.” ×
A passenger claims their luggage at Luxembourg’s covid-adapted airport
Photo → Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
Yan Liu pictured with her guzheng
A pause to play Yan Liu started playing the guzheng at age 5, after her parents introduced her to
the traditional Chinese instrument, the origins of which are said to date back well over two millennia. Liu says the instrument is similar to a harp, adding that the guzheng in China bears the same importance as the piano in the western classical tradition. Liu, who studied with guzheng grand master Li Yan at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music, was already winning competitions by the age of 14. From 2007-11, she
conducted a folk orchestra at the same time she was studying at the Beijing Institute of Technology. By 2012, she was living in Paris and since 2017 in Luxembourg, and in both locations she has played regular concerts, from Chinese new year gala events to those organised by esteemed brands such as Hermès (where she works part-time) and Chanel. “Many people in Europe are interested in Chinese culture and my instrument, and they also enjoy playing,” she says. In
the past five or so years, she has noticed the guzheng developing “very fast... most people still play classical pieces. But now composers, also Chinese composers, have their music training and also know western-style music.” Blending styles
Recently, Liu has also been experimenting more in playing western-style music with Luxembourg artists. “It’s really interesting when we cooperate together. → We exchange occidental and oriental
music. I enjoy playing with them because I can learn new ideas.” During the confinement period, Liu says she was able to practice more, and it was a pause she says she actually greatly appreciated. It also allowed her to focus more on teaching plans for her students (her other part-time work). When she plays alone, she says some compositions are sad. “I start to think about my childhood, my hometown, or years when I was in China, because [life] really changed a lot when I came to Europe.” She does acknowledge, however, why for others “who live for concerts, it’s a catastrophe for them because they don’t have the chance to play”. But she encourages others to explore new types of music. “Nowadays, the internet is easy to access, and you can see musicians around the world. They do exchanges... people just enjoy the music. Also for the listeners, they try to listen to new things.” An emotional connection
She currently has three guzhengs, one which she mainly uses for concerts, another smaller one half the normal size, which she can easily transport with her when she goes on holiday. She received another one from an elderly guzheng player in Paris, who told her he wanted to give her the instrument, knowing she would be able to take good care of it. “Normally there are 21 strings, but this one has 25 because it’s an older model, but it’s a special one, with history.” Liu says she has a special relationship with each instrument, calling each a “friend” with which one develops an emotional bond. “Maybe you first buy a guzheng, it’s very young and hard to play, but [then] it’s like there’s a story, a relationship you build... after that you don’t want to play another one.” ×
Natalie A. Gerhardstein Mike Zenari
The Walferdange Rugby Club’s ladies team is tackling the covid-19 crisis
Mind the gap Playing contact sports in Luxembourg is challenging at the best of times. But add covid-19 into the mix and it’s a whole new ballgame. At the start of the pandemic in March, team sports stopped and strict physical distancing measures entered into force in Luxembourg. For contact sports like rugby and lacrosse, this could not have come at a worse time. “We were doing really well last season. Suddenly, the championship had to be stopped,” says Corinne Brever, vice president of the Walferdange Rugby Club. While training restarted in July, it was a far cry from what players were used to. During the first phase, passing, tackling and training as a large group were off the cards. Much of the focus was on fitness and, even then, players had to train in bubbles to limit the chances of spreading the virus. “We had to keep a two-metre distance while running. It was very strange,” says Brever. “Everyone was
so happy to be back and see one another even if they couldn’t play.” Players and coaches are working hard to regain skills and fitness lost because of the lockdown. It seems a little unfair that rugby clubs in Germany and Belgium, where the Luxembourg club’s teams play, were able to resume contact training sooner. But Brever is also concerned about how the new season will play out, and when it will start, since much will depend on the infection rate. “We hope that the championships will start in October... If we start too late, they might prolong the season. Or we play more games and have less rest time to r ecover and maybe injuries come more quickly,” she says. Another concern is the dependence of Luxembourg on playing teams abroad. During lockdown Germany closed its borders and from July to August visitors from Luxembourg were only permitted if they had a negative → covid-19 test. If in future countries
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unilaterally block access to Luxembourg players because of infection fluctuations, it could further jeopardise the season. “If we can’t play in Belgium, there’s no other place we can play real matches. In Germany, they don’t have many 15-a-side teams,” Brever says. “If we can’t play, it’s frustrating.”
Lacrosse may have a shorter history in Luxembourg than rugby, but the national men’s team has set its sights high and since the summer of 2019, players have been preparing for the European men’s lacrosse championship. So, there was considerable disappointment when the pandemic pushed the 2020 tournament back a year. Training in Luxembourg is subject to similar social distancing rules as rugby, with contact strictly limited to games and official training. “We all are very excited to get back to a normal routine. And we know we have a part to play. And if we are complacent with this, or we ignored some of the social distancing rules, we may not be able to play future tournaments,” says the club's treasurer and communications chief Nirav Haria. As training fully resumed at the end of August, the team had some catching up ahead. “The mental game is just as important if not more than the physical game. And that’s what deteriorates the quickest when you don’t know when your next competition is going to be, when you don’t know when your next training is going to be,” national men’s team coach Maiah Bartlett said in August. Bartlett, however, sees the silver lining in the situation. “For us, it means extra time for preparation work, to get a couple more players on our roster or to give players that were kind of on the edge, they just started playing, another year to be ready for those European championships.” ×
Jess Bauldry Mike Zenari
Ilaria Galeota’s upcycling project melds her passion for fashion and concern for the environment
The fabric of life The success of the upcycling label she
launched in February 2019 has taken Ilaria Galeota by surprise. The Luxembourg native, whose parents are both Italian, says commissions have been flooding in since she first posted a picture on social media of a Nike sweater that she customised with an embroidered flower. “I didn’t want to wear it, because everyone had the same sweater. But I thought if I add my own little touch, my personal detail, maybe it’ll just stand out a little more.” The Reworked by Ilaria label is little more than a side project for now, and one that will have the brakes put on while Ilaria attends university in Brussels, where she has just started studying “mainly languages and political sciences”. But she says her goal is to eventually create a sustaina-
ble business with ethical and eco-friendly standards that contrast with those of fast fashion. “I’m inspired by campaigners like Greta Thunberg… and I know that the fast fashion industry is, I think, the second most polluting industry,” says the confident 20-year old. “I want to help people give their clothes a second life instead of throwing them away and contributing to environmental pollution.” Sewing was something Ilaria only picked up again in 2019 after suffering a broken heart--“that sounds a little dramatic,” she says with a wry smile--and looking for a distraction. She had started to take a real interest in clothes making at the age of 10 when she attended sewing lessons for a couple of years. “It was just very natural since I have this big Italian family and all the women know
At that age, Ilaria had ambitions to be a fashion designer. That is a career path that may still happen, but she has so far eschewed studying fashion at university. “I would like one day to maybe take a course in fashion marketing, but not right now.” So last year she took her sewing machine out of the closet and found some embroidery thread and the inspiration to create her own upcycled clothes. As demand grew, she printed her own business cards and has received plenty of positive feedback from satisfied customers. On the back of her upcycling work, Ilaria has also had the thrill of designing costumes for the recent BGT theatre production of “David’s Redhaired Death”, which ran for four performances at the Kinoler in Kahler in September. It was the first time she had designed for a show, though she had been involved in the theatre while at school at the Lycée Michel Rodange, where she was in a group taught by BGT founder Tony Kingston. She enjoyed the freedom that Kingston gave her as well as the collaborative effort of working with actors Cindy Bloes and Lina Peller and assistant director Tiara Partsch--all of whom are around the same age as Ilaria. “We went from being acquaintances to being friends, which was cool.” × firstname.lastname@example.org
Duncan Roberts Lala La Photo
Useful and random information about Luxembourg
Spain ceded the southern part of the Duchy of Luxembourg, which included Thionville, to France under the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. Source: Information and Press Service
Luxembourg’s flag is nearly identical to that of the Netherlands: both have red, white and blue horizontal stripes, but Luxembourg uses sky blue and the Dutch ultramarine blue. Source: Information and Press Service
The first movie based on a PC video game was filmed in Luxembourg; “Wing Commander” (1999) starred Freddie Prinze Jr. Sources: “Guinness World Records”; IMDB.com
how to sew, knit, embroider… do anything with their hands.” A French lady in her local village was offering lessons, and Ilaria’s parents were very supportive. “I was the only child that didn’t have a hobby like the other kids. They all did sports or music. I was just really focused on school, so my parents were just glad that I was doing something.”
In my suitcase
Expats share what they brought when they moved to Luxembourg Russian
Frozen memories words
Natalie A. Gerhardstein Mike Zenari
↑ Shawl Pavlovo Posad shawls, traditionally worn with folk costumes, “are changing to be for everyday use, and you can really have masterpieces. I wear them in winter as a normal scarf.”
↑ Birth certificate Pichurina’s birth certificate is written in both Russian and Yakutsk’s local language, which she says is called “Sakha” or “Yakut” and counts some 450,000 native speakers.
→ Rice cooker As someone who spent over five years in South Korea, Pichurina brought this back from Seoul. “I can’t live without proper rice culture now. This pressure cooker is especially for rice, with a menu to cook rice from different types of grain.”
VALERIYA PICHURINA It’s the cold climate that Valeriya Pichurina most remembers about Ust-Nera, Siberia. “When I went to [school], I closed and covered my eyes, gave my hand to my father to guide me. It makes your eyes itch, you cry from the cold.” The East-West United Bank marketing & communications manager says that, given the town’s strategic importance in gold mining, for a while “it didn’t even exist on maps”. The diet included caviar, meat and raw fish--“you take it from the water still frozen and eat it”--but fresh eggs and vegetables were harder to get. She was six before she tasted her first grape in Yakutsk, reachable by chartered plane. Pichurina’s passion for languages led her to winning a Korean essay competition. “First prize was to study in South Korea for a year, all expenses.” She stayed five years and was even invited to a coming-of-age ceremony in Seoul. There were also new customs. “In Russia, we use red for happiness. In Korea, it’s only for dead people.”
↑ Jewellery box This jewellery box showcases the “Palekh” style of traditional painting, a style praised for its decorativeness. “My sister bought this one in Moscow.” ↑ Jewellery These earrings and necklace, gifts from her parents, were made in Yakutsk. “In that region, they mine gold, and the deer and pattern are really a Yakutsk tradition.”
↑ Korean food “These are instant, spicy noodles, and the real chopsticks you are supposed to eat with. You would never eat with wooden ones.” Pichurina brought these metal chopsticks from Korea and says she still uses them for western food.
↑ Slippers These booties were crocheted by Pichurina’s grandmother. “Grandmas in Siberia love to knit, so you find knitted things for everything. These really protect you from the cold.”
Illustration → Maison Moderne
WHAT I REGRET LEAVING BEHIND Siberia’s “rough nature” “When you are in the forest, it is only you and Mother Nature,” says Pichurina. “Normally, it is what you see in ‘survival movies’, it was my reality, and I miss the scenery and frozen air in the winter when the temperature is below 50 degrees.”
Meet the people who add zest to life in Luxembourg
The 8th continent OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020
or many people, Madagascar conjures up the 2005 Dreamworks animation about a group of zoo animals who end up in the Madagascan jungle. Social entrepreneur Roxane Rajabali says it does not do her native island justice. For one, “there are no zebras there!” Rajabali’s link to Madagascar stretches back several generations when her great-grandparents emigrated to Madagascar from India following the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947. Although she was born in Paris and lives in Luxembourg, Rajabali lived in Madagascar from a young age until the age of 18 and to her, it remains “home”. “We’ve a lot of natural resources. Just 20 minutes out of the capital you find places that aren’t exploited at all,” Rajabali said. “The people are always smiling. It’s good to live in Madagascar.”
While studying commerce in Paris, the expat kept her homesickness at bay by cooking the kinds of food she ate growing up, a fusion of Indian, Indonesian and African cuisine. “But, in the shops, I could only ever find the same big brand spices. What is more, many of them were diluted with other ingredients.” The experience planted the seed of an idea and in 2018, Rajabali launched The Spice Collection, selling around 30 different exotic spices in fun, elegant tins. Of the selection, 70% derive from Madagascar. “I can be sure of this because I regularly return and have an association which regroups small producers. It helps the local population with good infrastructure.” Furthermore, for each spice sold, Rajabali’s association plants a tree in Madagascar. “We’ve planted around → 6,000 trees since we began.”
JEFF ERPELDING The cardiologist founded Tsara Fo to offer practical experience and support training in the health sector
Photo → Mike Zenari
ROXANE RAJABALI Founder of The Spice Collection, the French-born entrepreneur describes Madagascar as her home
Photos → Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne → Shutterstock Sources →  World Bank →  Statec →  World Rugby News →  World Wildlife Fund
WHERE TO MEET MALAGASY PEOPLE ABROAD Tsara Fo Aide pour Madagascar 98 avenue Victor Hugo, Luxembourg-Centre email@example.com ↳ www.tsara-fo.org
The Spice Collection ↳ www.thespicecollection.com
Facebook group Madagascar au Benelux
Embassy of Madagascar to Belgium and Luxembourg 276 avenue de Tervueren B-1150 Brussels, Belgium firstname.lastname@example.org Ambassade de Madagascar à Bruxelles
Honorary Consulate in Luxembourg Mr Nico Schaeffer 205 rue des Romains, L-8041 Bertrange email@example.com ↳ www.ambassade-madagascar.fr
1896, has a significant diaspora. Luxembourg appears to be less soughtafter, with 72 people holding Madagascan passports living there at the beginning of 2019. In past years, a friendly football match was organised between the two countries. While Madagascar has its own unique popular sports, like tolon’omby (zebu cattle wrestling), its national sport is rugby. Introduced in the 1890s by French railroad workers, today there are over 161 registered clubs and its national team, the Makis, reached the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations a handful of times. Another vestige from the French colony was the health system, though it is beleaguered by widespread corruption, according to Luxembourg cardiologist Jeff Erpelding. “Madagascar was the reference for medicine in the Indian Ocean,”
DID YOU KNOW THAT At almost 600,000 square kilometres, Madagascar is the world’s second largest island country and fourth largest island in the world. There may be no zebras, but Madagascar has a huge diversity of flora and fauna. Approximately 95% of Madagascar’s reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals exist nowhere else on Earth. The island’s unique ecology prompted scientists to call it the eighth continent of the world. Pictured: A Malagasy worker processing vanilla in Sambava, Madagascar.
In the past, much of the island was covered with evergreen and deciduous forest. Even though Madagascar retains a huge diversity of flora, deforestation for rice fields, fuel and timber has destroyed over 90% of its original forests. The remaining flora and fauna are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods and droughts. Widespread corruption further compounds the issues facing the island nation. In 2019, Transparency International ranked the country 158 out of 180 countries with a score of 24/100 in its corruption perceptions index. With corruption, comes poverty. In 2019, three-quarters of the population was thought to be living below the poverty line. Emigration offers one way out and France, which colonised Madagascar in
he said. “Happily, it became independent in 1958, but corruption was primordial. It’s a very big problem.” In 2007, Erpelding cofounded Tsara Fo, Malagasy for “remember”, to provide practical experience and oversee good health practises in the profession. Since 2011, a delegation of health professionals from Tsara Fo has visited the same area every year. “Sometimes, we will have practitioners come to Luxembourg to get practical experience at the CHL or Esch hospitals.” The cardiologist waxes lyrical about Madagascar’s beauty, diversity and plentiful resources some of which, like litchi, are sold in Luxembourg. “In a single day, you can cross three to four different climate zones.” At the same time, poverty is very present, and more than half the population lacks access to safe drinking water. According to the World Bank, Madagascar has the world’s fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition, with almost one child in two under five years of age suffering from stunting. “There’s real famine in the south. It’s the first time in my life that I saw kids with huge extended stomachs because of malnutrition,” the doctor said. With November’s scheduled visit postponed thanks to covid-19 and the medical school closed, Erpelding is deeply concerned. He says the little finance trickling into the health system is directed into covid treatments before other pressing health concerns like malaria and cancer. “We will return as soon as possible.” ×
Highlights from the international community and networking events
New international school
Primary pupils and secondary students arrived for the first day of class at Luxembourg’s 5th public international school, Lycée Edward Steichen in Clervaux, 16 September.
LaLa La Photo 1 Secondary teacher Tina Verbaarschot welcomes her students 2 Primary teacher Nancy Musin gives a tour 3 Sarah Griffin in the classroom 4 Heading to the classroom 5 Jennifer Pinto Silva distributes an iPad to parents 6 School principal Jean Billa delivers a welcome speech 7 Carine Comte dispenses hand sanitiser
Find more events Check Delano’s digital agenda for the latest happenings: ↳ www.delano.lu/agenda
First day of class Health measures were in place for the first day of the academic year at Bonnevoie-Verger primary school, 15 September. ↳ www.vdl.lu
Uni back in session
Students attended orientation sessions during the University of Luxembourg’s annual Welcome Day, 11 September. ↳ www.uni.lu 3
Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne 1 Kaan, originally from Turkey, is studying engineering 2 Sabrina, Milena and Jeff 3 Uni president Stéphane Pallage speaks with students 4 Each faculty had its own colour-coded zone
Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne
1 Parents arrive with pupils 2 Everyone needs to wash their hands before taking a seat 3 Lydie Polfer, Luxembourg City’s mayor, welcomes staff & pupils 4 Pupils do not need to wear a mask when seated at their desk
A delegation of US officials and decision makers visited SES HQ to talk about the future of the satellite sector, 23 September. ↳ lu.usembassy.gov
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 photos 2
Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne 3
Visiting the SES campus Nasa’s Mike Gold 3 Former US house speaker Newt Gingrich and US commerce department director Kevin O’Connell 4 Officials brief Delano journalists Natalie A. Gerhardstein & Cordula Schnuer 5 Pete Worden of Breakthrough Initiatives 6 US state department attorney Gabriel Swine 1
About 300 people participated in Paperjam Club’s 10x6 Talents event on
Construction clients were recognised at the annual awards
the vision of generation Y and Z workers, held in a phygital (physical and
hosted by the OAI (order of architects and engineers) at the
digital) format, 10 September.
Philharmonie, 21 September.
1 Dudelange mayor Dan Biancalana (centre) arrives 2 Shahram Agaajani (on left) 3 Pierre Hurt of the OAI (speaking)
Elfy Pins Naouelle Tir 3 Béatrix Charlier (on right) 1
Nader Ghavami/ Maison Moderne
CEO Breakfast Paperjam Club hosted company chiefs for informal networking at Les Jardins d’Anaïs, 10 September. photos
Jan Hanrion /Maison Moderne
Martin Vogel Brassel
Jan Hanrion / Maison Moderne
Over the moon
The China Cultural Center in Luxembourg celebrated the midautumn festival (also known as the ‘moon festival’) with an evening of culture and music blending eastern and western talents, 27 September. ↳ www.ccclux.lu
Mike Zenari 5
1 Camille Kerger presented with Chinese red tea 2 Gast Waltzing samples the tea 3 Yan Liu photographs Jill Crovisier 4 5 Zhang Shaohui demonstrates calligraphy 6 Michèle Kerschenmeyer & Yan Liu 7 Moon cakes served during the celebration 8 Wan Jin
1 2 Shoppers at the capital’s 91st ‘braderie’, held in the Gare district... 3 ... and in the city centre 4 Anne Darin of the retailers federation UCVL
Jumble in the capital Luxembourg City’s annual
31 August. ↳ www.cityshopping.lu 3
Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
Cancelled, not cancelled Even in trying times, it is clear that live music remains very much an essential outlet. Case in point: the annual Congés annulés festival, which concluded on 20 August. ↳ www.rotondes.lu
1 Francis of Delirium, fronted by Jana Bahrich 2 DJs Christophe Demart & Pierre Christen 3 Congés annulés programmers Nicolas Przeor & Marc Hauser 4 Social distancing seating in the makeshift outdoor auditorium
‘braderie’ (street market) drew mask-wearing bargain hunters,
TO BE BACK IN THE OFFICE?
Jess Bauldry, Natalie A. Gerhardstein, Aaron Grunwald and Duncan Roberts Mike Zenari illustrations Luis Demano
The great homeworking experiment forced by the pandemic has transformed the lives of thousands of workers in Luxembourg. Six months on, Delano asked four people who work in different types of workspaces about their typical workdays.
1 Private office
Before 16 March, there was no “typical day” at the office for Nicolas Mackel, CEO of the statebacked promotion body Luxembourg for Finance. When not jetting abroad, attending business lunches, speaking engagements or networking events, he’d be in his Kirchberg office, a 30-minute commute from home. “My new typical day starts in Luxembourg and ends in Luxembourg,” he told Delano of the difference during an interview in early September. Mackel returned to his private office in late April, arriving at work at the same time as pre-lockdown, around 7:30 a.m. However, with quieter roads, it took him just ten minutes to get in. He also spends less time getting ready as he no longer wears a tie. Being office-bound has enabled him to focus on projects that had been lingering on his to-do list, such as launching podcasts and webinar series.
COLLEAGUES On any given day he’s joined in the office by between 40% and 60% of the team. Staff, who returned to the office in June, work on a rotation system, arranging their schedules between themselves so that, for example, only two staffers who share a space for four people are there on the same day. “We have never been the full team back in the office since March.” Some employees with health or family concerns have remained on telework. “Those people that come back, I think, are the people that, just like me, [wanted] to come back,” said Mackel. “We didn’t force anybody to come back. We didn’t ask them to come back. We always left them the option of remote working.”
The human side of business Cover story
Pascal Martino is a banking and human capital leader at Deloitte Luxembourg
“Those people that come back, I think, are the people that, just like me, [wanted] to come back.”
Since the pandemic, the offices have been certified by the Occupational Health Association for the Tertiary and the Financial Sector (ASTF) as a “working environment safe for covid”. This means, for example, plexiglass partitions are set up, employees wear a mask everywhere but at their own desk, and meetings with more than four people are held on Webex.
Mackel was eager to return, partly because “there are too many distractions” at home. He found it “very difficult to [put down] a good book without reading another ten pages”, he says. “I myself, if given the opportunity to work from home or from the office, will prefer to work from the office because simply it’s a question of being able to concentrate. Maybe it’s a question of discipline, which I absolutely lack. But primarily, as the leader of the team, I thought, I should be here all the time, even if the team is not here all the time. They know where to find me” when they have a question. In addition, “physical interaction with colleagues, to me, is something extremely important,” Mackel stated. He reckons that communication is more effective and efficient face-to-face compared to multiple email rounds. Still missing from the equation are the spontaneous, informal exchanges with colleagues and with the other tenants in the same building. “We used to bump into each other” on a regular basis, but social distancing rules have put a damper on that.
How can organisations keep a human focus, even with our increased reliance on technology? PM This crisis demonstrated that, while technology can augment and supplement work, it does not replace what humans can offer. This presents a unique opportunity for organisations to overcome the instinct of setting humans and machines on parallel paths and instead build connections that can pave a way forward, one that can nurture growth and innovation in the weeks, months and years to come. Instead of asking how to humanise a work environment inundated by technology, the more profound question for organisations is how they can leverage the environment that technology creates to humanise the world of work. The power of the social enterprise lies in its ability to bring a human focus to everything it touches, empowering people to work proactively with technology to create lasting value for themselves, their organisations and society at large.
Photo → Deloitte Luxembourg
What attributes should a company embrace, given our new normal? PM In combining purpose, potential and perspective, organisations will develop the ability to engage a social enterprise in 2020, guiding the workforce towards recovery in the coming years. Purpose is needed to embrace wellbeing and embed meaning in all aspects of work. Potential is required to maximise human capability in an emergent world of machines. And finally, perspective is necessary to view uncertainty as offering possibility, not as a threat to the opportunities of today but as an asset to the creation of value tomorrow.
Which HR trends do you anticipate being most important in the coming year? PM The challenges posed by covid-19 have reinforced the importance of understanding what workers are capable of doing, in addition to understanding the ways they have worked previously. Organisations must now go beyond reskilling and invest in resilience. Organisations that employ workforce development strategies may both reskill their employees while simultaneously building worker resilience and equipping their professionals and the organisation with the tools, insights and strategies to adapt to a range of uncertain futures.
2 Coworking space
Djillali Sadki took up post as director of the Luxembourg branch of Eximius, a professional services firm based in London and Hong Kong, on 2 March, just two weeks before lockdown. He was working out of the coworking site Spaces in place de la Gare, a location that offered flexibility for the Benelux hub he was developing to grow. During those weeks he commuted by train to avoid the hour-long drive to work from his home in France. “Our job is about relationships, meeting candidates and clients, so in the first weeks I had maybe three or four meetings a day,” he told Delano, adding that the networking events organised by Spaces were a big attraction to “develop my network and increase business opportunities”. When the call came on 15 March for those who could to work remotely, Spaces kept their centres open. Sadki opted to work from home, where his employer had provided him with all the tools he needed to telework.
COLLEAGUES Working autonomously from the UK office, he was accustomed to a certain degree of remote working. During the lockdown period, like many others, Sadki resorted to virtual meetings not just for prospects but also with other company directors and the CEO. “I was due to go to London quite often, but with covid it’s not possible,” he said. For nearly two months he and his colleagues worked entirely from their respective homes. “I think there were not a lot of businesses like this,” he said. “They maintained everything here to be able to work safely, so you could come without any feeling [of] pressure [or] something bad would happen.”
Health & safety measures
Among the steps taken, Spaces carried out “deep and reinforced cleanings” and installed plexiglass at the reception area, as well as setting out clear guidelines for common areas. Sadki was impressed with the level of organisation by the office space management company. He said: “If an office was too small [to ensure proper distancing], they were offering another office with a big discount”--a 50% discount, to be exact. They also offered to spread the lease costs from the lockdown over the remainder of a tenant’s contract.
Since returning to the coworking space, Sadki says he continues to work remotely on average one day per week. He still travels by train but on occasion uses the car--which he can do mask-free-“and I can breathe!” But particularly for the recruitment side of his business, he believes face-to-face interaction is still preferred. Given that Sadki had worked previously in Luxembourg, he feels fortunate to have already had a decent network and experience here. Of course, while many budgets were being slashed and projects being put on hold earlier on, he has had his work cut out for him. But he is optimistic, having made some 25 placements in six months. “We see now that the market is picking up. It’s better, projects are restarting, but it depends,” he said. “Parts are waiting because they are doubting how the situation will evolve, some prospects are saying, let’s wait until next year. So, we have to find the right balance.”
Anne-Sophie Preud’homme is operations leader at PwC Luxembourg
Were contingency plans already in place at PwC for this sort of event? A-SP We became concerned about the risks associated with the coronavirus crisis as early as January, due to several planned or ongoing business trips of our staff to Asia at that time. With the declaration of the first cases of covid-19 in Europe during February, we activated our Incident Management Team as foreseen by our business continuity plan. The frequency of the crisis group meetings became daily as of 9 March. The risks of pandemic and border closure were included in our business continuity plan, but were considered--until then--rather unlikely, even if we considered that such a scenario could be very impactful for our firm. In our business continuity logic, we called upon the actions envisaged in our plan to separate the key teams and to protect our employees in case of contamination. Did you organise any remote group activities for staff while they were at home? A-SP We have set up a dedicated intranet page providing lots of advice for our people and teams, daily news, access to streaming sports courses, as well as various guides mainly related to deconfinement and the rules to follow when travelling for private or business purposes. It was really important for us to stay in touch with our people to reassure them, caring also about their physical and mental wellbeing in those particular times. John Parkhouse, our CEO, has also been streaming weekly to the whole firm to communicate on the evolution of the crisis.
Photo → PwC
“They maintained everything here to be able to work safely, so you could come without any feeling [of] pressure [or] something bad would happen.”
How did you prepare for the return to the office? Did you get the Occupational Health Association for the Tertiary and the Financial Sector (ASTF) certification? A-SP First of all, we have adapted our buildings and workspaces to guarantee a social distance at all times. Only one seat out of two is available today. We have also adapted traffic flows to avoid crossings and have strategically placed hydroalcoholic gel dispensers and posters reminding people of the [safety precautions]. Very early in the crisis, we equipped ourselves with a large stock of surgical masks in order to offer them on a daily basis to the employees present onsite. Finally, we prepared a building user guide defining all the rules to be respected within our buildings. Our deconfinement plan was the first to be audited by the ASTF, leading to ASTF certification.
3 Ongoing teleworking
A keen runner, Ebay senior quality assurance and compliance operations analyst Pia Raves would sometimes be up at 5 a.m. to get in a jog before work. That was before the lockdown, when she had a 1.5-hour commute by train, foot and bus from her home in a Trier apartment to her office in boulevard Royal. Sometimes she’d walk between her office and the station to help disconnect from work. But since 16 March, she has teleworked uninterrupted from home, a situation that is set to continue until the end of the year, when the current cross-border fiscal agreements expire. Today, her commute has been reduced to mere steps giving her more time to run without the early starts. “In the morning I spend this time sleeping now. I feel that I’m way more balanced,” she told Delano in September.
COLLEAGUES Besides missing the social interaction with colleagues, teleworking makes communication trickier. “The small things that you would discuss over coffee with a manager […] or when someone passes by your desk to ask small questions. Now you have to send someone a message, you have to interrupt them,” she lamented. And it doesn’t help that Raves has some colleagues she has not met--as they were recruited during the teleworking period. She said: “It’s harder to keep up with colleagues I don’t meet on a regular basis. Back in the office it would definitely be easier.”
Physical distancing rules and transmission risk
Cross-border tax issues
asymptomatic.” Face masks, fresh air, meeting outdoors and limiting face-to-face talking time all significantly reduce the chance of passing on the coronavirus in the workplace. The authors warned that other factors influence covid-19 transmission risk, such as an infected person’s viral load, individual susceptibility, and the level of coughing and sneezing.
Are the safety measures implemented in offices and office spaces effective? Researchers think so. A recent paper published in the BMJ, an academic journal, included “a guide to how transmission risk may vary with setting, occupancy level, contact time, and whether face coverings are worn. These estimates apply when everyone is
Risk of transmission Low
Type and level of group activity
Low occupancy Outdoors and well ventilated
Jean-Philippe Franssen is payroll and personal tax partner at the accounting firm Grant Thornton
Indoors and well ventilated
Outdoors and well ventilated
Indoors and well ventilated
Wearing face coverings, contact for short time
Speaking Shouting, singing
We often hear about the home working limits on cross-border commuters, currently suspended, but what exactly happens to a cross-border worker who exceeds the authorised number of days? J-PF The risk for an employee normally paying his/her taxes in Luxembourg is to start paying taxes in the country of residence as well, if he/ she exceeds the limit of days provided by the double tax treaties. For example, if a crossborder employee exceeds the limit of 29 days worked outside Luxembourg, his/her salary will be taxable in France based on all days worked outside Luxembourg, including the initial 29 days [editor’s note: the annual limits are 24 days for Belgium and 19 days for Germany]. Regarding social security, the risk for the employee is to see a change in his/her social security affiliation if he/she exceeds a threshold of 25% of activity in his/her country of residence. The implications will be significant, especially regarding health care coverage, pensions and application of social benefits, for example, child allowances.
Wearing face coverings, contact for prolonged time Silent Speaking Shouting, singing No face coverings, contact for short time Silent Speaking Shouting, singing No face coverings, contact for prolonged time Silent Speaking Shouting, singing Borderline cases that are highly dependent on definitions of social distancing, number of individuals and exposure time
Since much of Raves’ work involves talking with colleagues in the US and Asia, she was no stranger to video conferencing platforms. When it became clear that teleworking would be a long-term arrangement, she took her office equipment home, setting up shop in the kitchen, from where she has a pleasant view of her building’s shared garden. Raves was not alone in the first months-her partner worked out of the spare room and very quickly it became clear they would have to upgrade their internet package. “Before that I was kicked out of meetings a lot. Now it’s not a problem,” she said. Before her partner returned to his workplace, the two would also punctuate the day with a coffee break together before going back to emails.
If she would log off at 5 p.m. before lockdown, Raves said that now she’ll log back in for a late call once a week. “I expect it as my duty, but no one asks this of me,” she said, adding that often she’ll take a longer lunch break if she knows she’ll be working late. To support workers during this time, Ebay offers an employee assistance hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week and mental health first aid training. Employees have also organised workout sessions via Zoom and management recently offered staff a bonus day off in recognition of their engagement while working from home. “I feel really recognised,” Raves said.
What about employers? Regarding social security, there might be consequences in terms of charges to be paid by the employer. The level of charges is often quite higher in neighbouring countries, such as France and Germany. It is, then, important for an employer to keep his/her staff in the Luxembourg social security [system] in order to avoid the payment of charges abroad.
Photo → Mike Zenari (archives)
Source → Nicholas R et al, “Two metres or one: what is the evidence for physical distancing in covid-19?”, BMJ 2020; 370:m3223
Could employers potentially be required to pay social contributions in both Luxembourg and the employee’s country of residence? J-PF The applicable principle at a European level is the uniqueness of affiliation. Indeed, it is not possible to have two affiliations and to pay social contributions in two countries. The risk for the employer when employees start working outside Luxembourg over the authorised percentage is to have employees affiliated in a foreign country. For example, if an employee working in a company in Luxembourg exceeds 25% of their working activity in France, they become affiliated to the social security [system] in France, the country of residence, and are not affiliated to social security in Luxembourg anymore.
4 Open plan office
FLORENCE AUQUIER OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020
Florence Auquier, product owner for daily banking at ING, was used to occasionally working from her home in Strassen before lockdown. Starting March, 85% of the 1,000 or so employees at the offices in Luxembourg-Gare were able to work remotely. She told Delano: “There were some minor hiccups in the beginning, obviously, because not all the infrastructure was in place.” Her home office was a simple one: a small Ikea desk in her room and a new monitor she purchased shortly before lockdown, a smart investment as it meant “I didn’t have to strain my eyes with the tiny screen on the laptop”.
COLLEAGUES Auquier missed the human contact and so was happy to volunteer to be among the first wave of staff to return to the office on 15 June. Teams were organised to come into the office on alternate weeks with the aim to return to 20% capacity as soon as possible. Even now, staff are split into A and B groups, working two weeks in the office and two weeks at home. In reality, Auquier says there is only ever between 35% and 40% in the office at any given time because of holidays, sick leave and individual health conditions that may predispose them to covid-19. Since June, Auquier has adapted to new hygiene regulations at her workplace, but she also changed her daily commute. “I started using my own car instead of the bus, because it’s safer and easier--the buses were quite full during rush hour.”
Mental health at work Cover story
Esmée Chengapen is a certified transactional analyst working in Luxembourg
“It’s nice to hear a voice, but it’s also nice to see the expression on faces.”
The bank, which received certification from the ASTF for its back to the office standards, provided returning staff with a booklet containing hygiene guidance, and floors were marked with pathways and circles indicating how far apart employees should stand at entrances or while waiting for a lift, for example. Its facility management department and human resources team closely monitor the situation and always put safety first. “We’d rather go a bit slower now than try to go too fast and then have to go back to square one and send everybody home and then figure the whole thing out again.”
Employees mostly used Skype for Business and Webex, and if staff didn’t have a webcam, the teams switched to FaceTime to see one another’s faces. “It’s nice to hear a voice, but it’s also nice to see the expression on faces,” Auquier said. They’d have 15-minute daily catch-up meetings which were frequently interrupted by family members. “One time a colleague’s husband walked behind her in undies,” she recalled with a smile. Auquier remained focussed by dressing and getting ready for work as if she was going into the office, even if she wouldn’t see anyone all day, “I think you need to do this for your own sanity”. ING provided advice for those working remotely and allowed staff a certain degree of flexibility on the timing of their workday, depending on their daily routine--so those who were early risers could start at 7:30 a.m., for example, and finish at 4:30 or 5 p.m. But that meant meetings also had to be timed accordingly.
Photo → Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne
What are the key mental health preoccupations of your clients in relation to the workplace at the moment? EC As home has now become the workplace for many, there is a sense of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the overlapping of roles within the same space. Often, this causes heightened tension at home. A few have lost their jobs. Prolonged uncertainty and acute stress have had a negative impact on their self-esteem and sense of hope. Those in the vulnerable category or living with someone who is vulnerable have been stuck at home and feel increasingly lonely. Individuals who are anxious and prone to addictive and compulsive behaviours struggle as a result of isolation and/or risks of infection at the workplace. What do you advise people whose mental health is suffering as a result of their current workplace arrangements? EC I recommend the following: establish routines, have a timetable, negotiate boundaries, and find practical solutions. Incorporate exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Voice out your needs clearly to your employers. It has been a learning curve for employers too and it is through dialogue that solutions are reached. Minimise your exposure to newsfeeds. Check your pulse and perform breathing exercises when overwhelmed. Talk to someone you trust about your thoughts and feelings. Make sufficient space for rest and play. Pick up creative activities: arts and crafts give space to mindfulness. Connect with others and organise walks and meetups with social distancing. Community and nature have a positive impact on mental health and provide perspective. The greener the space, the better it is for the brain. Carry out small acts of kindness. Connect to a cause greater than yourself. Contact a mental health professional if you need support. Where can people find more resources? These websites provide useful information:
↳ www.covid19-psy.lu ↳ www.who.int/teams/ mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19 ↳ www.calm.com/breathe
What did they learn? The lockdown forced (or gave) several organisations the opportunity to improve their processes, but it also strained staff members. Here are 5 recurring themes we found:
Telecommuting is popular
At the height of the crisis 69% of the Luxembourg workforce was telecommuting as part of the country’s emergency response. The proportion has since fallen but it remains part of the pandemic strategy--a June report from Luxembourg research body Liser recommended maintaining remote working practices to avoid a rebound. What is more, the lockdown teleworking experience appears to have gained converts--a petition for the right to work half of one’s contracted hours at home exceeded the 4,500-signature threshold needed to prompt a parliamentary debate. With fiscal agreements with neighbouring country authorities in place until the end of the year and infrastructure now in place for many employers, the barriers to teleworking are falling away. Of the four people we spoke to, all accepted that teleworking had its place in the world of work. But, is it viable in the long-term? 2
Changing hearts and minds
   
Sadki was not short on praise concerning Luxembourg’s swift response to the pandemic and economic relaunch but for the recruitment side of his work, face-to-face interaction was preferred. He admitted he felt some frustration “because I’m someone who’s very positive. I want to move forward, and this situation is lasting a long time.” 3
Mental health considerations
A 2017 United Nations report found remote working increased stress and reduced wellbeing in four out of ten workers. With the added challenges of social isolation, difficulties in switching off and general anxiety about job security and personal health, one cannot discuss teleworking without addressing mental health questions. Some employers are ahead of the game. Ebay, for instance, developed a mental health support package and hotline for its staff. Even so, it’s a delicate balance to strike and Raves acknowledges the pitfalls. “With the home office and the flexibility, it’s nice. The other side of it is the feeling that you have to be always available. It’s really hard to turn off.” Awareness appears to be growing among leaders and employers of the need for greater empathy and understanding. Mackel said that rings true not just for coworkers but also for clients and professional contacts who also need space. “We are working with human beings, not machines.” A May survey from Unmind and the Reward and Employee Benefits Association found eight in ten had experienced a rise in requests for mental health support, and 88% reported discussions around employee mental health had increased at senior management level. It suggests that employers are finally addressing issues that for years have been brushed under the carpet since the survey found that 88% of respondents believed that mental health support would receive greater backing from their board and senior management teams as a result of covid-19. In Luxembourg, the mental health of workers was deteriorating before the crisis. In the 2019 “Quality of Work Index”, 18% of respondents said they felt at risk of burnout, up on previous years, while 27% reported a conflict between their work and personal life. Women tended to report greater difficulties in reconciling work and private lives (50% of women compared to 38% of men). Lockdown impinged on individual wellbeing levels differently. Although it does not directly mention teleworking, the second “Come-Here” survey recording population wellbeing since lockdown found
that in Luxembourg the higher the number of adults and children in a household, the higher the self-reported stress levels. High levels of loneliness were also reported among Luxembourg singles, people living apart and individuals in households with three or more children. In addition to workload, stress, isolation and childcare responsibilities are therefore important elements to consider in the teleworking experiment. 4
The shift has brought with it work efficiencies for some offices. Auquier said her department at ING actually managed to simplify processes for other colleagues. “For instance, we used to send paper faxes. But with covid people were not in the office to actually pick up the faxes. So, we streamlined processes and went digital.” Luxembourg for Finance took their time developing new digital products but, in retrospect Mackel said “I would probably have gone into switching to digital very quickly, rather than focussing on doing it right.” He reckoned that after restrictions are lifted, Luxembourg for Finance will continue to hold conferences and informational sessions online, leaving physical events, particularly those held abroad, dedicated to networking. 5
Raves stressed the potential “big sustainable element of working from home” as a widespread, long-term practice. While there was a drop in emissions due to changing commute habits as a result of lockdown, a recent study found it will have a negligible impact on the climate crisis. Six months on and as infection fears prompt commuters to choose private over public transport, the quiet of the country’s roads feels like a distant memory. Bruno Magal of KPMG’s Automotive Institute told Delano back in July that the importance of private car ownership had “significantly increased”, and the institute said people were willing to spend more money to feel safe. A KPMG survey conducted in April found 64% of consumers intending to purchase within six months said covid-19 had influenced their perspective on leasing or purchasing a vehicle, out of which 47% were more likely to buy/lease and only 41% were less likely to buy/lease. Another trend that could emerge from the homeworking shift is families moving from urban to less crowded, rural areas. “As a result, having a car becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. Private and public players need to work together in order to find the right solutions in the long run,” Magal said.
Statec -  “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work”, ILO-Eurofound 2017 report “Covid-19 and employee mental health research”, Reward & Employee Benefits Association, 18 May 2020 Chambre des Salariés -  University of Luxembourg and Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg, September 2020 “Current and future global climate impacts resulting from covid-19”, study led by Piers Forster, University of Leeds
Cloche d’Or - Bertrange - Dudelange - Fingig - Strassen
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The covid-19 pandemic was tough on small business. Many enterprises had to shut down or suffered dramatic declines in turnover, leaving their cash flow at critical levels. The minister responsible for small and medium-sized enterprises, Lex Delles, is also in charge of tourism, which was also initially hit hard by the uncertainty created by the health crisis. He speaks about the government’s response and looks towards the short-term future for these not insignificant sectors of the economy.
Lessons learned from an unprecedented crisis interview
t the height of the covid-19 lockdown, mid-March to mid-April, Luxembourg’s economy suffered a decline in activity of some 25%, according to Statec. In March and April 2020, around 30% of the country’s workforce was on partial unemployment and retail output declined by 39% while the hospitality sector suffered a 90% drop. The minister in charge of small and medium businesses and tourism, Lex Delles (DP), says lessons have been learned and offers a glimpse of optimism for the future. What lessons have you learned from the pandemic? duncan roberts
I always say, and you can gladly check my desk, I don’t have a drawer that is labelled “covid-19 crisis”. The situation was unprecedented and there was no plan lex delles
Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
to take certain steps. But we, together with the businesses, have learned several lessons. What were the priorities? Firstly, to ensure that companies retained some liquidity. That’s why we introduced the different forms of state aid. The temporary unemployment plan was also something that worked very well. But we also had some very targeted support. The first aid package of €5,000 was comprehensive for all businesses that were forced to close. The second package was for those that had suffered a drop in turnover. The aid packages that are currently in place, be it for local businesses or the recovery and solidarity fund are specifically targeted at those sectors that were hardest hit by the pandemic. We supported local businesses through the Neistart Lëtzebuerg programme by giving them grants
of €1,000 per employee in July, €750 in August and €500 in September. In the context of Neistart Lëtzebuerg, we also targeted those sectors that were hit most in the long-term by the pandemic--hotels, restaurants, cafés, as well as the events sector. What we are trying to do is get these people back to work. Because there is an economic factor that we need to consider--someone who is going to work has an added value for the economy that they generate but also through the extra-curricular activities that they undertake during the working day. Have you been in regular contact with representatives from the SME sector?
Yes, every week we have had telephone meetings with the chamber of commerce, the chamber of trades, the CLC [employers →
“ There There is an indication that there is faith in our economy. People can see that there is an upswing.”
federation] and its sub-organisations, Horesca [hospitality sector group], the federation of artisans. I had Horesca on the phone nearly every day during the pandemic. Also, with the House of Entrepreneurship. It is important to get a feeling from these organisations of where particular problems lie. We discussed our ideas of how to provide aid. I have even had individual businesses on the phone to explain their specific problems. What has their feedback been on the support the government provided? Some self-employed were angered by the delay in providing help for them.
I think we have to relativise. If we compare what we did on a European level, the sort of aid policy we provided and the speed at which we distributed it, then we were good. Of course, we have learned lessons. For instance, the application form for the first direct aid package was available for download from the Guichet website so that applicants could print out and complete by hand and send by mail, or fill out and email, or complete online and submit directly via the website. That was well meant. But there were some businesses who actually did all three, because they weren’t used to using digital platforms.
So, we received the same application in three different versions. I am not ashamed to say that in some cases we required six weeks to pay out the aid. As a ministry we usually handle around €15 million in aid each year--these are applications for €100,000 or €200,000 each time. But following the launch of the first direct aid package, we had to process €32.5 million in 8 weeks. And they were payments of just €5,000 each. We had to assimilate staff from the tourism ministry to help out with the processing. Of course, there were also some borderline cases in which the law is quite clear. Some enterprises were simply not eligible. We had to provide targeted aid and set distinct criteria. In the year up until June the number of bankruptcies was actually down compared to 2019. But Creditreform Luxembourg says the economic consequences of the pandemic have simply been delayed. Is there any indication of how many small and medium size businesses are under threat of bankruptcy before the end of the year?
I would need a crystal ball to guess at that. The number of bankruptcies fell because the conditions for going bankrupt
have changed. On the other hand, this is clearly a critical situation for many businesses. That is why it is necessary to show solidarity with small businesses and support them. Which is why we introduced the €50 voucher, for example. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder. Businesses themselves and the self-employed have helped. They often paid the bills they had outstanding at other local businesses, and their own employees before they paid themselves. We can’t forget that the self-employed are important actors in the economy. Has the pandemic caused a slowdown in the number of startups and particularly sàrl-s (simplified) companies being founded?
The simplified sàrl scheme has been a success, more and more start-ups were choosing that legal status before the crisis hit. But in general, we have handed out around 4,300 business permits between 15 March and 11 September. That is only very slightly fewer than in a “normal” year. And that was from across the board of all sectors--though half were for retail businesses. There is an indication that there is faith in our economy. People can see that there is an upswing.
← A graduate of educational sciences, Lex Delles has been the minister in charge of small and medium-sized enterprises and the minister of tourism since the DP-LSAPDéi Gréng’s second coalition government was formed in December 2018. He was first elected to parliament for the DP in 2013.
If we can turn to tourism, some two months after the €50 voucher scheme was launched, are you able to judge its success?
If the question is “when did I judge the scheme to be a success?”, then my answer is when we managed to save one job, when we prevented one business from going under because of the voucher. And we did manage to do that. Some 40,000 vouchers have been redeemed. The aim was not to give people a gift and tell them to take a vacation. There were specific short-, medium-, and long-term aims. The shortterm aim was to showcase Luxembourg as a tourist destination for residents and cross-border workers. We have so much to offer, beautiful corners of the country that people haven’t yet discovered. The voucher was an incentive to go spend one, two, three nights or even a week somewhere, and it helped strengthen the hotel sector. The medium-term goal was to get repeat business, maybe through word of mouth, even when someone had already used their voucher. And in the long-term, people who holidayed in Luxembourg this summer may well be tempted to do so again next year. The leisure tourism industry may have enjoyed the start of a recovery, but the Mice sector is still suffering. Do you have a prognosis for when events and conferences might start up again, and what else can be done to help the sector?
The Mice sector is very complicated. It was the first in and last out during this crisis.
I think the challenge right now is really to question oneself. To ask, what is my situation, what happened, and how can I prevent it happening again? These questions raise several talking points. The state has several instruments that can be used to help. For instance, the investment aid package allows the state to cover between 10 and 20% of any investment a company makes in its business. Many companies also see digitalisation as a vector that will allow them to emerge from the crisis. The Lëtzshop online retail platform exploded in terms of orders and the number of businesses who wanted to join. So, we offered free membership in order to help them out. We offered vouchers so businesses could use the Fit for Digital consultancy packages. And instead of a five-day consultancy, they were offered targeted help to improve their digital presence and processes. It is important to have a strong economy, so it’s vital that the state is able to polish the economy.
Even if the lockdown in Luxembourg only started on 15 March, it was already affecting other areas of the world. So, business tourism and conferences had already suffered 3 or 4 months previously. Also, digitalisation has damaged the sector--even if I don’t think it will have a long-lasting effect because it is important to have physical contact and those five-minute meetings that you don’t have on a WebEx camera. But businesses are still unsure whether they should allow employees to travel. But I think things are improving and people will realise they can have conferences even with covid restrictions. There have been big expos and trade fair events in Germany. We are proud that in November Luxembourg will host the ICCA congress, which will attract attendees from all over the world. That will show that it is perfectly possible to organise a big event if you have professional advice. Before the pandemic, the leisure tourism sector was making efforts to diversify its offer and improve its marketing image. How do you see the sector evolving once the pandemic is over?
I think we can take a few positives from the crisis. We have learned that we have a beautiful country that is worth visiting and staying for a vacation. Then if you talk with tourists who came from abroad to holiday in Luxembourg this summer--and several did come, even if the season was “mixed”--they felt safe here and we have a reputation as a country that took the pandemic seriously. Then we have plenty of initiatives that have recently launched or will launch. Like the “you move, we carry” experience that allows hikers and cyclists to travel from hotel to hotel without having to worry about their luggage. This really has an impact on rural tourism. And Rhineland Palatinate was so impressed, they asked for advice on how to get a similar programme up and running. So, I am optimistic that we will experience a growth of tourism in the future. ×
COVID-19 FINANCIAL AID PACKAGES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND INDEPENDENTS The ministry for small and medium-sized enterprises distributed five aid packages between March and September 2020 to help mitigate the economic impact of the health crisis. First package of direct aid for enterprises with up to 9 employees (€5,000) First package of aid for the self-employed (€2,500) Source → Ministry for small and medium-sized enterprises
So, what are the challenges that entrepreneurs creating a small or medium-sized business currently face in Luxembourg?
Second package of direct aid for enterprises with up to 9 employees (€5,000) Direct aid for enterprises with between 10-20 employees (€12,500) Second package of aid for the selfemployed (€3,000€4,000)
In addition, €83 million was paid out in repayable financial aid to compensate for temporary financial difficulties caused by the covid-19 crisis.
Back to the roots essay
When the covid-19 confinement hit, local foodie-entrepreneurs stepped up their game. Here’s how a few of them adapted to the new set of challenges and how they’re contributing to the local food revival.
Natalie A. Gerhardstein
Patricia Pitsch/Maison Moderne
← Danny Hutchines and Senad Alic holding produce at their Junglinster greenhouse Letzgrow Friends Group
hile Luxembourg did not experience the same kind of panic shopping witnessed in some other countries, the confinement period coupled with restaurants being closed or operating at reduced capacity gave individuals the time and space to plant gardens, experiment with fermentation or bake bread--as the food lovers in this article will attest to. Even with the easing of restrictions, the food industry has been hard hit. Despite some restaurants having suffered, on the local production side there were some unexpected opportunities to meet demand--but not without a bit of creativity. A community of gardeners
Senad Alic and Danny Hutchines are a dynamic duo, quite literally the growing forces behind Letzgrow. The company is the brainchild of Alic, who formulated the concept six years ago but says he concretely began the practice about three years ago. “The original idea behind the business was a combination of growing healthy foods, but also a bit of frustration around food today,” Alic says. “What do we eat? How is it made? Where is it produced?” Alic’s goal was to grow organically using a no-dig approach, and he researched techniques on how to do so with a minimal carbon footprint. Alic, who previously worked for 20 years in the finance sector, hails Luxembourg’s “organised collection of organic waste”, which can be used for compost, and Letzgrow’s philosophy is “to feed the soil rather than plants. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint.” Hutchines, born in Luxembourg to English parents, joined the team after travelling for 13 months. His experience included working in a garden in a Guatemalan jungle, and he wanted to keep gardening upon his return home: “From the moment Senad and I sat down, it made sense that we work together.” Their main gardens and greenhouses are based in Gonderange and Junglinster. Before the pandemic, the small team had already been delivering their high-quality produce to restaurants. And then lockdown hit. “We had a bit of a crisis meeting,
→ Jennifer Olding, founder of The Happy Guts’ Company, says fermenting is in her DNA ↳ www.thehappygutscompany.lu
essages to its community on plant care, m for example, reminding people to bring plants indoors when the late frost hit. That community spirit is reciprocated too: their buyers often post images of dishes they’ve made from Letzgrow’s produce. “You hear [prime minister Xavier] Bettel [talk about] solidarity, and that was among the positive things in this madness of corona, this feeling of community,” Alic adds. “People who never even thought of growing something started to grow during this period, [and] we are trying to motivate people to continue with that mindset… if you spend 15-20 minutes a day in your garden, growing a few herbs, it has so many benefits.” Fermentation station
For Jennifer Olding, founder of The Happy Guts’ Company, the confinement period also helped her turn her pop-up shop dream into a reality. She says it’s not an exaggeration that “I could ferment from the time I could walk. It’s basically in my DNA.” Her mother, originally from northeastern China, was an avid gardener, and recipes were passed down in her →
thinking, ‘oh my God, what are we going to do?’, obviously the restaurants being our main lifeblood,” Hutchines recalls. “But then we sat down, put our heads together... it took us about 24 hours, and we came up with the concept of a drive-through.” People could order online through the group’s Facebook page (which already had a customer base for its family bags), and then a pick-up timeframe was scheduled. At the outdoor counter, the team ensured proper sanitary measures, such as non-contact payments. “It grew week to week,” Hutchines adds. “It was like a whole separate business had just popped up because of the covid situation.” Alic estimates the group increased by 50% in under four months. The latest result: the team opened its pop-up shop over the summer (for hours, it’s best to check their Facebook page). While gardening and supplying require huge time investments--Hutchines says “if we could add another 6 to 7 hours a day, we’d be golden”--the team still takes time to share educational tips with its community. After their plant sales over the lockdown period, the team sent
← Martino Martucci prepares a boule in his home kitchen Artisan Bread Luxembourg
family not just for kimchi, but other fermented foods too, like fish, daikon radishes, bean sauce, rice wine and more. “Fermentation is a science,” Olding says, adding that it’s easy to try but the best result comes from “ensur[ing] your ingredients are as fresh and seasonal as possible”. Her products are organic-certified, and she’s a fan of trying no-waste, even buying up local chive flowers that would have otherwise gone to a compost heap, from which she produced vinegar. Olding initially started making kimchi in Luxembourg as a hobby, albeit in 20kg batches. “I couldn’t eat that much so I posted on an online group to see if anyone wanted some, and basically I had nothing left.” It built up from there, and two years ago, she began THGC to share her love of fermentation. She had already been selling products like kimchi and a range of kombucha, but then confinement hit. For Olding, this period didn’t change much for her personally (although she states she was glad to see others try their own fermentation and baking sourdough bread), but professionally it may have just been a small blessing in disguise. Olding had started THGC from the basement in her own home, later focusing more on B2B sales as the company developed. Just before lockdown, Olding had signed a contract for a new production facility, hoping to use the space as an office and a place where buyers could collect her
products. Although she had “come up with the [pop-up] idea before, I said, ‘I’ve got to do this’ as soon as covid hit”. She adds that the pandemic “really changed my perception about how to encourage people to shop locally more, to shop seasonally”. “What’s really interesting about fermentation is you see how small elements come together with patience and time to bring something together so wonderful,” she says. “I think it’s the same as our community: if you can bring different people together, you can come up with something wonderful.” Not loafing about
Similar to Olding, Martino Martucci learned the art of breadmaking through family--specifically, his nonna. Originally from Puglia, Italy, Martucci knew already by age 11 he wanted to be a chef. After receiving his diploma from a cooking school, he travelled and worked abroad, in places like Australia, Morocco and the Maldives, plus a stint at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London. On 21 March, he began making his sourdough starter based on his grandmother’s recipe and, after 15 days, he was baking. He couldn’t eat all the loaves so he started giving them to his neighbours. Based on their positive feedback, he soon launched the “Artisan Bread Luxembourg” Facebook page. Suddenly, requests were rolling in: “I was making bread every day, but for no profit.” Although he charged for the bread, it was just enough “to cover the flour and fuel
[for] the delivery service”. At his peak, he was using 20kg of flour daily to produce some 40 loaves. At a point during confinement, he struggled to find flour, later sourcing 50kg bags from a local producer. Although Martucci has experimented with breadmaking, he’s particularly passionate about sourdough. It’s an art which requires plenty of time for the starter to peak after feeding, gluten structure to develop through stretch-and-folds, bulk fermentation process, shaping and proofing. His confinement days revolved around bread: on Martucci’s clock, the dough was prepared by evening so he could bake late morning the following day and deliver loaves between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. “I could manage 10 to 15 deliveries a day, but with the oven I have at home, I could make a maximum of around 30kg of bread,” Martucci says, adding that customers didn’t mind waiting, and word-ofmouth marketing went a long way. “They were excited to get sourdough bread, which you can’t really get here in Luxembourg... nowadays, if you buy a baguette at the supermarket, you can keep it for three hours and after a while, it starts losing its structure.” Martucci dreamt of opening a bakery based on this success but says, after looking into the procedures to do so, his cooking school diploma wouldn’t be enough. “For a bakery, a different diploma is required,” he says, so “my new idea is to use bread on a menu”. For him, “making bread is not just to make food, but it comes with the past and memories I have. It brings me a lot of joy.” ×
LARGE SCALE TESTING
WE ARE ALL PART OF THE SOLUTION YOU ARE INVITED ? GET TESTED ! www.covid19.lu
Who you gonna call? OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 ↑ As a safety precaution, operators currently ask any caller reporting a health emergency whether they have been tested for coronavirus or are showing any symptoms of covid-19
name words of the Cordula journalist Schnuer photos photos name Mike of the Zenari photographe
The emergency services switchboard lies at the heart of the CGDIS--the Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps. All calls to the emergency hotline 112 are fielded at the Cloche d’Or HQ from where ambulances, firefighters and other rescue workers stationed across the country are dispatched. The responsibility for deciding how to respond lies with a team of 33 operators and 10 supervisors. They must judge whether a silent call is simply a mistake or comes from someone who, for whatever reason, cannot speak. They decide which responders to send to make sure help arrives as quickly as possible and talk the caller through any assistance they might be able to offer, such as first aid. With more than 300,000 calls per year, the switchboard is a buzzing hive of activity and, at the same time, the calm eye at the centre of the storm.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 ↑ ↑ The switchboard has come a long way from the pre-digital age, but technology to automatically transmit the caller’s location is still pending new data protection rules
↑ The 112 hotline receives more than 300,000 calls per year, over 800 a day, but only around a quarter are for emergencies, such as accidents or fires
→ The team jumps into action when a caller reports smoke emanating from an apartment building in Luxembourg City. First responders deliver the all clear within minutes
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 ← Around half of the calls made to 112 are in Luxembourgish, with all operators also speaking French, German and English to reflect the international makeup of the country
↑ The emergency services corps includes roughly 4,000 volunteers across different units, such as firefighters and ambulance drivers, but also frogmen and psychological carers
↑ The emergency team has 300 scenarios ready to roll out in case of flooding, a plane crash, nuclear incident or other disaster, which are managed from this situation room
↑ With 100 fire and rescue stations in Luxembourg, operators will decide who to send to an emergency, always making sure enough staff are available in each corner of the country
← What, where, how many people are involved and who is calling-these are key questions in an emergency. “But we will guide callers to get the information we need,” said supervisor Sandra Bettendorf
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 interview
Increase supply through targeted policy Housing minister Henri Kox has his hands full with a reform of the rental law and policy efforts to increase the supply of homes and make it easier for the young and those on low incomes to access the housing market. words
eople always say the market will regulate everything, but housing is not a market policy,” says Henri Kox, the Déi Gréng minister who has been in charge of the housing portfolio since October 2019. Housing is one of the biggest challenges facing the government as the population keeps growing, prices continue to soar, and demand outstrips supply. “We have to adapt a targeted house-building policy. That means housing has to be affordable, public and sustainable,” he says. According to Kox, that targeted policy means lending a hand to those who are struggling. And it also means propagating new types of residential building so that, for example, people who come to Luxembourg on short-term contracts can afford a
Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
home. “There are obviously plenty of people who can afford current prices, because transactions in the housing market are being made every day,” the minister says. “There are also plenty of people who are making a profit. But there are also many people who are losing out.” The government is in the process of implementing a reform of the rental and lease contract law. Under the new legislation, landlords will no longer be able to charge excessive rent. And real estate agency fees will be split between tenants and landlords. To ensure rental prices do not exceed 5% of the capital invested in the property, the government is going to allow the rental commission, if required, to demand documentation from the landlord so that they
can calculate how much capital has been invested in a property. “That will prevent owners from dividing a property into small residential units that they can then rent for a total sum greater than the value of the house.” Together with justice minister Sam Tanson (a Green party colleague), Kox and his team are working on establishing an official mediator for any disputes arising from tenants who think their rent exceeds the 5% threshold. “We want to avoid people ending up in court,” says Kox. Co-location
Another area that will now be regulated by legislative reform, inspired by Belgian regulations, is flat sharing for students, interns and young professionals. He wants
← Henri Kox: There are plenty of people making a profit, but also many who are losing out
3,600 The number of affordable housing units that the state is currently investing in to the tune of €500 million. The units are spread across 308 construction projects being managed by the SNHBM, the Fonds du Logement, communes and private developers. 1
to encourage a real market for this type of living. “I mean, why can’t the Big Four, for example, be in a situation where they are informed of vacancies in a co-living space that they can offer their young employees?” Despite the efforts of some communes, there is no tradition of intergenerational co-living spaces in Luxembourg, Kox says. Certainly not like there is in France or some other European countries. “We need to get co-living space to be part of housing policy, to start a dialogue and to showcase positive examples. But, like with many things, Luxembourg is a bit behind on this.” One of the enduring problems in the grand duchy is that home owners and land owners hold on to empty properties and building plots in the hope that they can profit from the spiralling market. Some communes have mooted the levying of a tax on empty land, but Kox says he prefers a carrot rather than stick approach. “We can bring empty houses and apartments to the private rental market via the social rental management instrument. This allows properties to be rented out at advantageous prices and the owner receives a tax break.” Kox says the government is in the process of reviewing the local authorities instrument that allows them to tax empty residencies and whether such a move could be adapted at national level--“there are difficulties in doing this through the communes,” he says. As for empty land, Kox says a distinction needs to be made between plots that
Sources → 1. Ministry of Housing 02.10.2020 → 2. JLL report 28.01.2020 → 3. Eurostat 16.01.2020 → 4. Observatoire de l’Habitat 02.07.2020 → 5. Ministry of Housing 02.10.2020
Public market quota
However, the state has also imposed a public housing quota on any future builds. “If a plot becomes available and a developer plans to build several residential units, then a certain percentage has to be made available for public housing.” The local commune has first option on whether to buy these units and make them available at a cost price. If the commune doesn’t or can’t take up that option, then the state will. “And we want to keep these in the public domain. Owners who bought from the SNHBM or the Fonds du Logement [housing organisations] used to sell houses and apartments to the private market after ten years. That simply has to stop.” Communes will also start getting subsidies for new builds under the new pacte de logement law. “And then we can’t forget the 1979 law that provides communes with 75% subsidy if they build housing that they put up for rent. We simply have to increase housing supply and we need an offensive policy to achieve that.” The current public housing rate of between 2% and 3% is “minimal”, says Kox. He cites the Netherlands, where public housing accounts for 30% of the market, and France, where local authorities are obliged to place between 10% and 20% of all housing in the public domain--“although they don’t do that properly, either”. Kox suggests that an increase in remote working as a long-term consequence of lessons learned from the pandemic will not only have an impact on office real estate but could also lead to employees who work from home looking for bigger living quarters. “But here in Luxembourg, we also have to look at housing in terms of transport,” he says. “The private car is no longer a priority. We have to make sure public transport is efficient and comfortable. This means communes have to rethink their ideas of public space.” He cites a residential project in Grevenmacher in which the public pensions fund has invested. “It only receives a 2 to 3% return, but the apartments will be rented out by the Fonds du Logement at affordable prices--in proportion to the disposable income of the tenant. They shouldn’t pay more than 30% of their disposable income. We are working on legislation, that in the future will allow private investors to take advantage of this offer.” ×
Limpertsberg was the most expensive place in the country to buy an apartment in 2019, with average prices reaching €12,000 per square metre. The other districts to burst through the €10,000 per square metre ceiling were Belair, Cessange, Kirchberg and Gasperich. 2
11% The average rise in the cost of housing in Luxembourg in the 12 months to 31 December 2019. Prices rose by 85.8% between 2010 and 2020. 3
18,000 Low-income households are spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing. 4
of capital invested
The threshold that landlords can charge for rent. The rental commission will be allowed to demand documentation from landlords to examine how much they have invested in a property. 5
have already been accorded planning permission--the so-called Baulücken (building gaps)--and land that could be reclassified for construction. He explains that there are currently 900ha of Baulücken that have not been built on, and a further 1,800ha of land that can be reclassified.
Bringing clarity to green investing The European Commission is codifying what exactly make ‘sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ investments green and good. The coming regulations could actually help Luxembourg’s fund sector grow, but industry leaders say that it will not be an easy climb.
Photos → Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
→ Nathalie Dogniez of PWC
ew EU rules take effect next year that aim to push more investment into sustainable projects and bring clarity to what has been the disparate and often confusing category broadly labelled as “sustainable and responsible investment funds”. The segment is a relatively small but flourishing part of the financial sector. Investors placed €54.6bn in European sustainable funds during the second quarter of 2020, up from €26bn the previous quarter, according to the research firm Morningstar. Separately, Morningstar found that European sustainable funds outperformed their peers over the 10 years to 2019. The category remains fragmented in large part because definitions of ‘sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ investments vary between member states and even between asset managers within the same country. So the European Com-
← Isabelle Lebbe of Arendt & Medernach and Stéphane Badey of Arendt Regulatory & Consulting
mission has introduced a sustainable finance plan, which includes a ‘taxonomy’ that will bring standard descriptions for so-called ‘ESG’ (environmental, social and governance) funds across the single financial market. One core aspect of the scheme is forcing companies and investment managers to spell out their sustainability policies and the risks they face, for example, against climate change. Sustainable finance plan
and ESG coordinator at Cube Infrastructure Managers, a Luxembourg fund firm with €2.6bn in assets under management. “Here, the EU is acknowledging the role the financial sector could play in this much-needed transition, if properly harnessed,” he says. “Against this backdrop, the EU also intends to fight the risk of increased ‘greenwashing’, noting this risk could exist, even simply due to a lack of education on sustainability or a lack of common language and definitions.”
“The EU is preparing both its economy and its financial industry for the sustainability challenges of today and tomorrow,” says Isabelle Lebbe, a partner in the investment management practice at Arendt & Medernach, a law firm in Luxembourg. “In the EU legislator’s view, a strong and resilient economy must incorporate sustainability factors. The financial industry will be used as a tool to achieve this. And a strong and resilient financial industry must identify and properly manage sustainability risks. That is why this aspect has also been integrated into the action plan. Finally, investors will need to be duly informed about the level of integration, and about the implementation of sustainability elements and measures by their service providers.” “The main goal of the EU sustainable finance action plan is to direct more capital for the transition towards climate- neutral economies, meaning low-carbon, climate resilient and circular,” comments Aurélien Roelens, investment director
Details of the plan were released over the summer and the timeline is challenging. The regulatory technical standards are due to be published in late January 2021 and the first set of rules scheduled to take effect in March 2021, with more measures coming into force at the end of next year and in 2023. That timing is too tight for one of the industry’s main lobby groups. The European Fund and Asset Management Association has called on the European Commission to delay implementation of sustainability disclosure requirements, from March 2021 to January 2022. “Our most critical concern is the extremely tight and practically unrealistic deadline to implement the new rules,” Efama told the commission on 1 September. “Market participants will be faced with only around five to nine weeks for the legal assessment and the subsequent operational and technical implementation of the →
Sustainable ETFs, September 2010-August 2020
Number and assets under management of exchange-traded funds with a sustainable (‘ESG’) focus†, according to Refinitiv Lipper. The funds data provider calls sustainable ETFs a “future growth driver” for the asset management industry.
Number of funds
Total assets under management
new rules. Such a short timeline makes it very hard or even impossible to properly implement this entirely new and complex legal framework.” (Delano asked the European Commission about Efama’s request and at press time had not heard back.) Under the EU plan, starting on 10 March 2021, “financial market participants will have to disclose information about their own internal organisations,” Lebbe says. That is to say, they need to outline their own environmental footprint as a company. Also, “by this date, all managers shall have updated disclosure on their website and remuneration policies,” says Nathalie Dogniez, partner at the consulting firm PwC in Luxembourg. “In terms of products, all offering documents and prospectuses shall be updated. This implies having assessed impact of sustainability risks for all products. This also implies having duly scoped funds between the three categories, having updated [or] aligned the investment process if need be, and adapted data, performance measurement and reporting processes.”
† D ata includes all fund launches and closures of ESG ETFs, as defined by Refinitiv Lipper’s ethical flag, “which are registered for sale in at least one European country. This means that the data are survivorship bias free, as we did count liquidated funds, for the period they were active.”
Funds industry shift
Dogniez reckons that: “The sustainable finance action plan will significantly reshape the fund industry, introducing full transparency on financial products sustainability features as well as new fund classification. Alongside the traditional active vs passive or traditional vs [alternatives] classification, the new industry dimensions will be non-ESG [vs] ESG classification. The winners will be those that will be able to take advantage [and] align the increased appetite for sustainability with their product strategy and product scoping. Ability to measure, and disclose appropriate quantification, of positive sustainable impact as well as negative impact... will also constitute key differentiators.” “The biggest challenge remaining post-implementation will be linked to ESG data availability,” explains Dogniez. “Getting complete, reliable and timely ESG data is already a challenge today. The new regulations will bring this challenge to a new dimension, requiring rough and granular data in order to be able to quantify positive and adverse impact or taxonomy alignment.” In terms of how the rules could change investment decisions, Roelens believes that private equity and infrastructure fund managers are ahead of the curve. “Would you invest in a coal-fired asset for 10 years without a plan to convert to more renewable energy sources... would you invest in a run-of-river plant without assessing the impact of global warming
on the river flow and hence future production? If work accidents in a portfolio company were beginning to increase, would you not have a clear remedy plan?” Roelens states, “at the end of the day, ESG considerations constitute one operational dimension of managing long-term risks and opportunities.” How prepared?
The coming complexity could play to the grand duchy’s strengths as a financial centre. “Luxembourg is ideally positioned” to meet the new EU standards, argues Stéphane Badey, partner at Arendt Regulatory & Consulting. The country is home to “many specialised players that have pre-existing infrastructure and market access,” such as the Luxembourg Bourse’s green exchange and Luxflag, an outfit that checks asset manager claims. Badey reports that local “asset managers have not waited for a regulation to be issued to set out on their ESG journeys. The combination of this trend and the capacity of Luxembourg institutions to quickly adapt to the regulatory environment should put Luxembourg funds in a good place.” Dogniez agrees the grand duchy will fare well, but warns that it will not be easy: “Luxembourg has a long history
as being the domicile of choice for ESG funds and is therefore well placed for addressing the upcoming challenges. That being said, we [should] not underestimate the implementation challenges--in order to comply with the 10 March deadline, projects [should already] be well advanced--and yet a lot of questions remain open, with the level 2 measures not expected to be finalised before 2021. These questions include clarification of product definition, impact of sustainability preferences (Mifid 2), information to be included on prospectuses and website, disclosure templates, finalisation of adverse impact indicators...” “As we speak,” Dogniez stated in September, “many practical implementation rules still remain unknown and one has no choice but to use working assumptions. Availability of complete, reliable and granular data also represents a very significant business challenge… that cannot be addressed within a few months.” Gaps in rules
“The EU sustainable finance action plan is already very ambitious,” comments Lebbe. “There are not many gaps in the set of laws and regulations currently planned. The regulation on disclosures will, how-
Photo → Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne
→ Aurélien Roelens of Cube Infrastructure Managers
ever, need to be clarified further. More guidance on the use of terminology will also be a welcome addition in order to prevent greenwashing. Finally, consistency between the different approaches of national regulators will be essential to cross-border marketing and the success of sustainable products.” “We have seen a debate around data emerge from the discussion on the [Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation],” observes Badey. “Because this is key to ensuring success and buy-in by financial market participants, we would like to see regulation of the non-financial reporting of corporates and underlying operational companies; support initiatives for reliable and accessible ESG data; [and] regulation of the specialised service providers and data vendors that have now flourished, such as ESG rating agencies and other new services.” A standard ‘European label’ signifying conformity “should be a priority, but the debate surrounding it remains complex,” he notes.
capital towards sustainable investments, capitalising on the current market trends. A defined common language is a prerequisite for proper exchanges, understandings and benchmarking.” “Creating common frameworks is always challenging,” he says. While any plan will always have some “imperfections and limitations”, there are too many conflicting rating systems and terminology in the marketplace today. The EU was right to try clearing it up, in his view. Roelens reckons: “Probably, no single benchmark or piece of legislation, on its own, could reach the depth and quality of an ESG due diligence that the most sophisticated and resourceful [institutional investors] are able to conduct. Not everyone has this ability to perform such due diligence, yet [all investors] still deserve a decent assessment of the sustainability of potential investments.” ×
WHY ‘GREEN’ AND ‘GOOD’ FUNDS ARE GROWING Denise Voss of Luxflag demystified the terminology around sustainable and responsible investing during a Delano Live Chat in September. Watch the replay on our website: ↳ www.delano.lu
SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENT WEEK The specialists interviewed for this article are all participating in Sustainable Investment Week, organised by Luxflag, an industry-backed outfit that checks asset managers’ environmental and ethical claims. The conference includes talks on climate change, ESG, impact investing and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 12-16 October
Broadly speaking, Roelens is optimistic about the new rules. “In my opinion, it is an overall net positive,” he says. “Transparency is paramount to efficiently channel private
Online ↳ www.luxflag.org
get the picture
Getting in a lather
To mark Global Handwashing Day on 15 October, Delano comes clean on global frothy facts. words
Jess Bauldry Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
Soap making In 2019, 5.7 million tonnes of soap were produced in the European Union.
Handwashing champs A 2015 Europe survey found that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina were most likely to wash their hands with soap and water after going to the toilet (96%), compared with just 50% of Dutch.
In 2019, the EU exported 3.2 million tonnes of soap and detergents while importing 1.3 million.
Hotel consumption In 2019, Luxembourg’s Hotel Meliá used 6,125 bars of soap (138.75 kilos) and 364.8 litres of liquid soap.
Biggest manufacturers Italy, Germany, Spain, France and Poland accounted for 85% of the soaps manufactured in the EU in 2018.
Made in Luxembourg There are roughly half a dozen soap manufacturers in Luxembourg, including Bléi vum Séi, Provilan, ArtSavon, Juma Soap, BM Passion and Yolande Coop.
Natural soap Bléi vum Séi, a cooperative in the Upper Sûre park making soap from locally sourced plants, saw customer demand rise from 6,500 litres in 2019, to an estimated 9,500 in 2020.
Bar or liquid soap? The percentage of US households using bar soap dropped 5 percentage points, from 89% to 84%, between 2010-2015.
Sources →  2015 Win/Gallup International Survey; Luxembourg not included in poll →  Eurostat →  Hotel Meliá →  Delano research →  Bléi vum Séi →  Mintel research
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Going with the flow European private equity funds started the year with $4.49trn in assets under management, according to Preqin, a data provider. European real estate funds had $1.04trn and European private debt funds had $845.7bn in assets under management. How have these types of funds fared in the face of covid-19, Brexit turbulence and rising geopolitical tensions? This report will provide an outlook on the three alternative fund segments. But first, background and analysis of an EU regulator’s push to revise the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive. words
Strong signals about the reform of the EU’s Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive were given over the summer. In this and the subsequent article, we will look at the motivations for and outlines of these ideas from the European Securities and Markets Authority. “We are not talking about something incremental, it is a move away from a principles-based approach to regulation, to one where we have a series of more specific recommendations and guidelines,” noted Alan Picone, a partner, risk advisory and regulatory transformation, at KPMG in Luxembourg. He was commentating on the far-reaching nature of the suggestions for AIFMD reform made by Esma, the leading EU regulator of the fund industry. Norman Finster, an advisory associate partner with EY Luxembourg, agrees: “This will not result in a quick fix, but a rather substantial revision, as other directives like Ucits and Mifid are also impacted. I am pretty certain that much of what is covered in the Esma letter will be reflected in the new legal texts which will emerge from the European Commission, which is already looking into many of these points.”
This threat has been an ongoing concern for EU policymakers and regulators in recent years. There were concerns that these worries could be translated into an erosion of the pan-European, cross-border organisation of funds which has served the industry and Luxembourg so well. In particular, there has been a concern that “letterbox” fund entities could be used to bypass Brexit barriers. “This is something that Luxembourg, for example, has tackled with local regulation--namely CSSF circular 18/698--while other member states are lagging in this regard,” Picone said. Esma sees the potential for these rules to not be applied with equal strictness across the EU, and so is keen to see clearer, pan-European standards.
1. The challenges according to Esma
AIFM substance appear to have some link. In other words, Esma wants to ensure that UK fund managers can’t circumvent the barriers to operations in the EU which could be put in place next year.
Risk and liquidity
Esma has also learned valuable lessons from the pandemic about topics such as risk management and liquidity. It would like this experience put into practice →
The proposals take account of how AIFMD has operated in its near ten years of existence; it is also a response to Brexit and the pandemic. The suggestions came in the form of a letter from Esma to the European Commission sent on 18 August. It highlights no fewer than 19 areas for potential reform of varying levels of complexity and significance. Of course, these moves are of particular interest to Luxembourg, a specialist in navigating the complexities of fund regulations.
ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS CONFAB The Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry’s “PE & RE Conference” is an annual summit of private equity and real estate investment fund professionals from across Europe. Tuesday 1- Wednesday 2 December 2020 Online ↳ events.alfi.lu
To a large extent, much of this text is about Esma seeking greater oversight of risk which could threaten the stability of the financial system. For example, increasing numbers of debt funds are performing a role once handled almost exclusively by banks, namely lending money. Often this systemic risk monitoring is carried out at the national level, but Esma would like a clearer European perspective. While Brexit is not specifically mentioned in the letter, various remarks regarding
Photo → Steve Eastwood (archives)
Experience, Brexit, covid
Alan Picone Partner KPMG ↓
“Other member states are lagging in this regard"
Net sales, 2019-2020 The covid-19 crisis slowed net inflows into European alternative investment funds during the second quarter of the year, according to the European Fund and Asset Management Association. That is likely due to insurers making additional provisions and lower contributions into pension funds.
€10bn 0 2019 Q2
formally, both for alternative funds, but also for Ucits (retail funds). Indeed, a major theme of these suggestions is increased harmonisation of processes and reporting between the two regimes. The stated goal is to reduce complexity and increase the application of best practice.
to ensure all member states apply high levels of oversight; clear rules on how fund organisations delegate activities crossborder; and a series of thematic topics including risk management, liquidity, leverage, the role of depositaries, the use of digital tools and more.”
These reforms could be handled in a limited number of texts or proposed through several directives and regulations. It would appear that 2021 is the most likely date for publication of the first draft text. Picone noted: “For people thinking the regulatory cycle might have reached its peak, this is certainly not the case, as the review process by Esma is about operationalising the principles that have been outlined in the previous regulations.” ×
2. Esma proposals for AIFMD reform
The first suggestion is eye catching, talking of the “harmonisation of AIFMD and Ucits regimes”. The details are perhaps somewhat less revolutionary, but there is a desire for Ucits to match the “granularity” of AIFMD regarding risk and liquidity. “AIFMD introduced comprehensive, harmonised reporting for alternative investment funds across the EU, but we don’t have this at the same level for Ucits. A recommendation has therefore been made to introduce harmonised reporting,” noted Norman Finster, an advisory associate partner at EY Luxembourg.
The 19 suggestions in the European Securities and Markets Authority letter to the European Commission related to AIFMD reform (see previous article) cover substantial ground. Perhaps the standout proposal relates to greater regulatory alignment between alternative funds (designed for experienced investors) and Ucits (targeted mainly at the retail market). However, the proposals go wider.
Esma is also calling for greater clarification of regulation for certain products and activities. For example, this relates to when giving investment advice on assets that do not qualify under Mifid rules, such as real estate. Similarly, for loan origination, the panEU regulator is seeking a specific framework within AIFMD. “This would be particularly helpful for the EU effort to promote a capital markets union and provide greater legal certainty for loan funds which could be seen as playing a greater role in the post-covid-19 environment,” Finster noted.
There are three broad themes to the letter, says Alan Picone at KPMG in Luxembourg: “Regulatory harmonisation
Experience from the pandemic has also influenced Esma’s thinking. “The covid crisis revealed the potential for systemic
leverage and liquidity risks to materialise for Ucits. To ensure strong systemic-risk overview, the alignment between these two frameworks needs monitoring at the Esma level,” Finster said. →
Photo → EY Luxembourg
Norman Finster Advisory associate partner EY
“ There are concerns about the risk of regulatory arbitrage”
NSIGHTS THE NEXT DECADE 25.11.2020 ONLINE EVENT
The Luxembourg Private Equity & Venture Capital Conference
The LPEA Insights conference shifts to E-nsights this year. We change the format but the purpose remains the same: to provide thought leadership for private equity and venture capital executives in Luxembourg.
Join us for a unique digital experience with high-level speakers, enhanced interaction and many networking features. For more information visit: www.lpea.lu
In this 10th LPEA anniversary edition, we look forward to what will inﬂuence and determine success in the next decade. The conference will bring together guest speakers who will
share their vision for the future of the sector, notably how it will be affected by technology, sustainability, global events and Luxembourg itself.
THE LUXEMBOURG VOICE OF PRIVATE CAPITAL
European marketshare Total net assets in alternative investment funds in the top seven European jurisdictions at the end of the second quarter of 2020, per the European Fund and Asset Management Association.
€562,500,700,000 Other countries
Delegation of asset management functions cross-border are dealt with in depth in the letter, which relates to previous comments by Esma in relation to Brexit. “Further legal clarifications on the maximum extent of delegation would be helpful to ensure supervisory convergence and ensure authorised AIFMs and Ucits management companies maintain sufficient substance in the EU,” says the letter. “There are concerns about the risk of regulatory arbitrage when delegating AIFM functions to entities not being directly subject to the AIFMD or Ucits directive,” Finster added. The letter goes on to mention what is seen as increased use of staff being seconded within groups to EU entities on a short-term basis. “This raises questions whether those secondment arrangements are in line with the substance and delegation rules,” says the letter. For so-called “white label” service providers which allow asset managers quick access to EU markets, the letter asks the commission to consider whether these structures should be “permissible”. Esma also sees “a lack of clarity in the precise responsibilities of home and host supervisors in some cross-border marketing, management and delegation cases.” To counter this, the letter suggests both greater harmonisation of rules and clearer definitions of responsibilities for European and national regulatory bodies. Reducing complexity and giving greater clarity are themes that run throughout
the letter. Translating these admirable goals into practical reality is now in the hands of the European Commission. ×
Source → Efama
in spring in order to secure money from investors, and most deals which were in a more advanced stage were concluded.” Market bottlenecks
3. Alternative funds & covid: private equity The covid crisis is the first big test for Luxembourg’s private equity fund sector since AIFMD came into force in 2013. This directive facilitated the rise of this activity in the grand duchy, and this crisis is putting systems and practices under the microscope. There are promising signs from the first six months of this crisis. “With respect to private equity and venture capital, there have been delays and postponement of deals and investment activity due to the pandemic,” noted Kavitha Ramachandran, head of business development and client management for continental Europe with Maitland, a corporate services firm. “However, the availability of dry powder and good valuations are helping investments in certain sectors like food and beverages, health care and technology.” Pierre Weimerskirch, managing director of LIS Luxembourg, a third-party management company, also sees room for optimism: “Private equity has done particularly well. We have seen accelerated fund closures
There are bottlenecks, however. “It has proven to be hard for funds to value their assets due to the pandemic and thus delaying the availability of potential assets, predominantly in the space of retail investments,” noted Joost Mees, managing director with JTC, a corporate services firm. “There is substantial ‘dry powder’ [i.e., money ready to be deployed] meaning many funds are eager to invest, but given the difficulties in valuing assets, one wonders whether the moment is right.” For this reason, he sees deal activity having been low in the second and third quarters of this year, but he is hopeful that increased financial impact visibility will see an uptick over the next six months. Ilario Attasi, head of group investment research at Quintet Private Bank, agrees: “Through the first half of 2020, global private equity managers closed on 177 funds totalling €139.5bn. The number of funds closed, and the cumulative fundraising total, represents approximately one-third of the figures for 2019.” He said this drop in fundraising was due to “persistent economic headwinds” plus the difficulties combatting the virus in North America, which accounts for over half of global private equity commitments. “However, fundraising may well finish the year on a high note with many high-profile managers seeking to close funds by year-end.” →
Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat, Luxembourg, établissement public autonome, 1, Place de Metz, L-2954 Luxembourg, R.C.S. Luxembourg B30775
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Private equity fundraising, 2019-2020* Investors have, so far, put less cash into European private equity funds in 2020 compared to recent years, according to Preqin.
Funds closed Aggregate capital raised
Photo → Marion Dessard (archives)
Kavitha Ramachandran Head of business development and client management, continental Europe Maitland
“The covid-19 pandemic unfolded at an unprecedented pace”
The fundamentals remain strong, as businesses are keen to receive this support, with investors interested in backing healthy projects. “By staying private, companies can embark on long-term, innovative, and sometimes high-risk, high-return ventures. They aren’t bound by the pressures of quarterly results, meaning they can take a longer-term view,” said Fredrik Skoglund, chief investment officer with Banque Internationale à Luxembourg. The deployment of technology could also be key to growing effectiveness and confidence for investors and those managing assets. “The covid-19 pandemic unfolded at an unprecedented pace, needing us to adapt to changing circumstances rapidly, especially in embracing technology,” Ramachandran commented. “Robotics and artificial intelligence will doubtless play key roles in taking this to the next level.” “When private equity/private debt fundraising and fund-closing activity again picks up, Luxembourg will benefit,” said Attasi. “This reflects the country’s global appeal as a hub for the structuring and domiciliation of such funds. The grand duchy’s status as a post-Brexit European gateway is further contributing to its industry appeal.” So far, so good for the Luxembourg regulatory regime, and the fundamentals
appear strong. The next big test is set to come when state economic supports are wound down. ×
4. Alternative funds & covid: real estate Excitable early talk about how the virus might kill office life have given away to more nuanced ideas of hybrid working featuring a larger element of remote working. Yet real estate fund managers over-exposed to office property are looking with envy at other assets which are benefiting from the new normal. “Certain real estate sectors like commercial and retail have seen decline, although renegotiation of contracts and rents have enabled the effects of the downturn to be managed,” said Kavitha Ramachandran at Maitland. As in the rest of the world, in Luxembourg, “banks, law firms, big four firms and fund administrators have only around 30% of their staff onsite,” noted Pierre Weimerskirch of LIS Luxembourg. Where will we work?
“Maybe the new norm will see a substantial part of the workforce working from home--at least on a partial basis. → If the office is to be used to meet and
Source → preqin
*as of 8 August 2020
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Real estate fundraising, 2019-2020* Investors have shied away from European real estate funds since the start of the covid-19 outbreak in the West, according to figures from Preqin.
Funds closed Aggregate capital raised
Photo → BIL
socialise with colleagues, probably less office space is needed,” Weimerskirch said. As well, “student housing is another area which is feeling the negative impact of the pandemic,” said Ramachandran.
Fredrik Skoglund Chief investment officer Banque Internationale à Luxembourg
“Lower rents and expected income streams could push values down”this year.”
Covid has had a particular chilling effect on the sector, agreed Ilario Attasi of Quintet Private Bank: “Real estate has seen a sharper slowdown in fundraising compared with broader private markets, as a recessionary environment has put pressure on rental income and capital values.” He too highlighted the in-store retail and office sectors as being particularly hard-hit by the move to working from home. As elsewhere in the alternative sector, with markets being held in suspended animation, valuations are hard to achieve with accuracy, further dimming investor appetite. Nevertheless, there are signs for optimism. Weimerskirch noted: “Logistics is a sector which has developed very positively. As a lot of the shopping moved online, the construction of new warehouses and the management of the logistics/supply chain was a big focus.” Attasi had a similar assessment: “Opportunities exist in segments such as logistics and residential real estate.” However, there too, portfolio managers will need to spread their risk. “Some analysts expect a potential drop in housing prices in bigger cities if there is a trend for big city dwellers [moving] to the
0 2019 Q1
suburbs or beyond, due to the potential continuity of teleworking opportunities,” said Joost Mees with JTC. Public-private infrastructure projects might present important opportunities. “Much has been written on the intended increase in infrastructure investment by governments keen to create employment and investments,” said Ramachandran. As well, an ongoing focus on sustainability could also have an impact. “There seems to be an even bigger push towards investing in ESG-linked real estate assets,” noted Mees. Building on existing trends
This is in line with the view of Fredrik Skoglund at Banque Internationale à Luxembourg that the pandemic is set to accentuate existing trends. “For private real estate, lower rents and expected income streams could push values down, but the fall in interest rates will also buffer the effects of this through lower discount rates,” he said. “Nevertheless, the real estate risk premium required today would have to be larger given the higher level of uncertainty, and having a significant pipeline with many pre-identified assets may not be attractive to investors anymore.” This is due to both likely adjustments in asset values, and also because of the changing tenant demands that could impact longer-term price trends. Skoglund stated: “These structural trends were already quite visible before the pandemic.” ×
Source → Prequin
*as of 8 August 2020
Asset Management Wealth Management Asset Services Alternative Investments
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Private debt fundraising, 2019-2020* 2020 started strong for European debt funds and the segment had one of the best second quarters in recent years, Preqin data shows.
Funds closed Aggregate capital raised *as of 8 August 2020 €80bn
Bump in the road
Increasingly, Luxembourg-based funds have been helping to connect lenders with borrowers, but the virus has changed the dynamic. “The pace of private debt fundraising slowed in the first half of 2020, due largely to the headwinds created by the pandemic,” said Ilario Attasi at Quintet Private Bank. “Over that period, private debt managers closed just 55 funds totalling €43.5bn, on pace for the slowest year since 2015 in terms of capital raising.” Kavitha Ramachandran at Maitland agrees, but sees signs of optimism: “Lending activities have been on hold given the uncertainties around liquidity; however, things have started picking up on the debt front with lenders being very selective in terms of assessing the profile of the borrowers--with cash and liquidity being
the key drivers.” For Joost Mees of JTC, the current market is primed for skilled portfolio managers: “The current financial situation seems to be the ideal hunting ground for distressed debt funds, and surveys seem, indeed, to indicate that there are more managers raising distressed debt and special situations funds than ever.”
social side,” noted Ramachandran. While the market readjusts, asset managers will still need to focus on how they can better differentiate their products for ever more demanding investors. ×
As to where the opportunities lie, for Attasi, “default rates should pick up in the coming 12 months, which will also create interesting opportunities for stressed and distressed managers”. Alternatively, “supply chain and trade finance activities have also come under focus due to the pandemic and there are rising investment opportunities in these areas,” noted Ramachandran. In any case, “timing is extremely important to find the right valuation as well as the opportunity still being present to be able to turn a business around,” Mees commented. Given the rise in the importance of these alternative sources of funding, this is also why regulators are seeking greater oversight in these areas (as noted in the articles in this issue on ideas for reform of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive). This, coupled with low interest rates often well below inflation, makes this sector ever more appealing. While the industry adjusts, it is also adapting to the needs of environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations. “The pandemic lockdowns have had positive effects on the environment and added focus on the ‘E’ factor. There has also been an increased impact on the
Photo → Maison Moderne (archives)
The fundamentals in the private debt sector remain strong. “After the financial crisis of 2007-09, new rules made it costlier for banks to lend,” said Fredrik Skoglund of Banque Internationale à Luxembourg. “The biggest banks were incentivised to lend to consumers and blue-chip firms at the detriment of mid-sized firms.” This is the area in which private debt and also private equity investment have sought to prosper.
5. Alternative funds & covid: private debt
Source → Preqin
Ilario Attasi Head of group investment research Quintet Private Bank
“Default rates should pick up in the coming 12 months”
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The Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s annual summit is billed as “designed for and by private equity practitioners”. Due to covid-19, this year’s edition will be “100% digital”, which on the upside, says the LPEA’s Stéphane Pesch, means more than its usual 400 attendees can sign up. Wednesday 25 November Online ↳ www.lpea.lu
Sharing insights Stéphane Pesch of the Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association talks about the trade group’s big annual event, his new role as CEO and diversity in the sector.
Aaron Grunwald Mike Zenari
he annual “Insights” summit “is our flagship conference,” attracting participants from all across Europe, says Stéphane Pesch of the Luxembourg Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (LPEA). Unlike other industry events, this confab focuses on letting general partners, who manage funds, and limited partners, who invest in them, “share their experiences, the latest trends and what they have encountered over the last months.” I n other words, LPEA members “share their insights with the market.” These insights could signal coming shifts in their portfolios. Which obviously is of interest to rival fund shops, investors
and service providers. And to students, who (following a screening process) can attend for free, which might lead to job and internship prospects. Pesch took over as CEO of the LPEA on 1 September, after serving as the trade group’s director of strategy for roughly a year and having been an active member while working at Apex Fund Services, KBL European Private Bankers (now Quintet) and other firms. He tells Delano that “my first goal is to represent a continuity” and “build on the foundation” laid by former CEO Rajaa Mekouar, who remains involved in the trade group, in executing the LPEA’s 2020-2025 strategic plan. The plan focuses on building out thought leadership, public advocacy and training programmes. But Pesch and his team are adding an “HR club”, a forum for members and service providers to address the “scarcity of profiles”. Pesch often hears about the problems firms face in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. Part of the solution, he reckons, is to make Luxembourg and Luxembourg-based funds more attractive to fresh graduates. The other part is developing a scheme to deepen the existing talent pool in Luxembourg by “revamping the careers of people who already have experience in the financial sector, who now want to deep dive into private equity.” Another key involves boosting the LPEA’s Private Equity for Women group, which provides support and networking opportunities to help balance a sector that Pesch describes as “not diverse enough”. He reckons, “there is sincerely no excuse for [women] to not succeed” in private equity and venture capital, but getting there is an ongoing question. ×
Alfi & Alrim
European Risk Management Conference
Government info agency and several partners host a series of conferences and meetings on electronic security and privacy issues. Monday 19-Thursday 29 October Several locations and online ↳ www.cybersecurityweek.lu
Trade associations host discussions on best practices for risk management professionals. Speakers include Alain Hoscheid of the Luxembourg regulator CSSF. Monday 26 October, 08:30-17:30 Online ↳ events.alfi.lu
Here is a selection of 10 upcoming business, information and networking events for Luxembourg’s international community. Accurate at press time, but check websites listed for latest details.
Dematerialised assets Renaud Le Squeren of the DSM law firm speaks on smart contracts during the “Virtualization of assets and contracts: you token to me?” legal workshop. Thursday 12 November, 14:00-17:15 Chamber of Employees (CSL) ↳ www.paperjam.club
Luxembourg-Poland Chamber of Commerce
Monthly meetup Network with Poles in Luxembourg, who are active in the fintech, logistics and space sectors. The official language of the Polish chamber is English. Thursday 22 October, 18:00-22:00 The Office ↳ www.lpcc.lu
Luxembourg for Finance
Sustainable Finance Forum Talks on sustainability in the post-covid-19 world, “the data behind sustainable finance” and the EU Green Deal. Tuesday 27-Thursday 29 October Online ↳ www.luxembourgforfinance.com
American & British chambers of commerce
Personal tax talk
Cleantech Forum Europe
Laura Foulds of Analie Tax & Accounting provides an overview of the Luxembourg fiscal system for international residents. Monday 9 November, 12:00 Online ↳ www.bcc.lu
Lu-Cix Women In Digital Empowerment
Tech Entrepreneurship 101 The group’s co-founder Marina Andrieu “will share her experience and knowledge from the world of tech startups”. Friday 23 October, 12:00 Online ↳ www.wide.lu
Green Heart Toastmasters Club
Public speaking Want to improve your presentation skills? Join this toastmasters club’s monthly physical meeting. Space is limited; reserve ahead. Monday 2 November, 19:15 Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce Green Heart Toastmasters Club of Luxembourg
Luxembourg Internet Days
Conference for “the people, companies and technologies building a decarbonised and resource-efficient future”. Speakers include Jan Grimbrandt of Boson Energy. Monday 7-Wednesday 9 December European Convention Center ↳ www.cleantech.com
This year’s event focusses on “network security & cloud security, from crisis management to resilience”. Tuesday 17-Thursday 19 November Online ↳ www.luxembourg-internet-days.com
Find more events Check Delano’s digital agenda for the latest happenings: ↳ www.delano.lu/agenda
Photos → Shutterstock → Lala La Photo (archives) → Ma Zagrzejewska → Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry → Steve Eastwood (archives) → Mike Zenari (archives) → Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne (archives) → Marie De Decker → Philipp Katzenberger/Unsplash → Boson Energy
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The Source A guide to culture and lifestyle
Hunger for culture Neimënster director Ainhoa Achutegui talks about the centre’s eclectic mission and culture in the face of the pandemic
84 On stage
86 Special feature
Live shows Heartwarming are back recipes Social distancing cannot take away the unique power of live performance. Here’s our pick of the best
Three mouthwatering dishes for the festive season that will ward off the winter chill
“People are hungry for culture” Neimënster director Ainhoa Achutegui leads the 45-strong team at the cultural institution, which is open seven days a week. She talks with Delano about how her role has developed since her 2013 nomination and the team’s commitment to their cultural raison d’être even in the face of the health pandemic.
natalie a. gerhardstein
The lockdown hit right as Neimënster was in the midst of quite a full programme. How did you respond to the pandemic?
We reacted as everyone and closed the doors to the public… For our culture department, it was possible to postpone everything. It was much more difficult for the events department. Between March and July we had to cancel about 39 [engagements], and this is a very important source of money. This was the biggest economic impact. At the same time, it was very clear for me from the beginning that we had to have a programme in the summer. I also asked my team to come back. I didn’t want them to lose connection to the house, to culture. Our mission is to have a programme for the public. It’s our raison d’être. At the beginning it was a lot of work to find new dates and rearrange, people were changing all the time because they were in other countries where there were other restrictions. What we learned from that as a team during this pandemic: we saw people are hungry for culture. It’s evident. ainhoa achutegui
Do you think this hunger for culture was always the case? Or was it intensified by the pandemic?
Natalie A. Gerhardstein Mike Zenari
Intensified. If you don’t have anything, you’re so happy when you have professionals who work for you, make music for you. The feeling of being together was incredible. We decided [not to charge for] ticketing, we would run the bar and pay the whole thing--the stage, everything--with the bar because we wanted people to come back to our institution. We programmed only Luxembourgish groups, and of course it’s easier if you programme big names, but [on 21 August] we had two young Luxembourgish artists [Francis of Delirium and ÆM, plus a DJ set]… It was one of the best and longest evenings we’ve had.
I would never say this pandemic was great, it’s the worst thing we’ve ever had, but at the same time we try to make the best from what we have. The fall will be a big challenge. We will adapt to the new restrictions. But we won’t stop programming culture because it’s our main mission. I consider it a duty. I have seen--and can prove--that people are hungry for culture. This pandemic is one thing, but it’s not the most horrible thing that culture has seen in its life. Culture was forbidden in many times; it wasn’t possible in many situations, many countries. Has your own view on how we consume culture changed?
As a consumer, because I’m really into arts, it’s not digital. It’s not my thing. We have done it too, but it will never replace the feeling you have in a [live] concert. This is why concerts survive because if not, people will only be listening to MP3s, and that would be enough. We have a jazz concert each Sunday, and we’ve had such beautiful words from the artists at the beginning of the concerts. They say they’re so happy to perform in front of real people. This is why I think it’s our obligation [not just] to the public, but also to the artist. How do you balance the mix in terms of your variety of spaces and audiences? And has this changed since you took on the role?
We are multidisciplinary. On one hand, we have a lot of different audiences. On the other hand, it’s very difficult for communication... It would be a lie to say it was easy. It was very difficult for my commercial/events team. Their mission is to bring high-level events with business people that bring us money, reputation, image, and it’s a very important part, but this →
“We have to show diversity in the arts.” ↑ Ainhoa Achutegui
NEIMËNSTER The cultural institution located in the heart of the Grund was inaugurated in 2004. Across its 12,000m2, the team organises a wide range of cultural exhibitions and events, like the “Bock op series” (shown here with Francis of Delirium).
part died in this pandemic. It will resurrect, but it was one of the most difficult things. It’s one thing to postpone a cultural event but to postpone a commercial event is difficult because they have to pay. In moments like this, you have to reinvent yourself and have a very dynamic team... I hope we will return to a normal situation because it’s always stress[ful] not to know what is coming the next day. We’re like everyone: we would like to return to normal. Can you tell us a bit about what you originally set out to achieve and whether you’ve reached what you set out to accomplish?
I’m really happy with a lot of things we’ve achieved. When I began, many things were really settled, so we changed a lot. For example, we have more women artists, a very important issue for me. We have to show diversity in the arts. We are building up and almost achieving it, to be the top in artist residencies. When I began, we didn’t do residencies. Artists were sleeping here but not working here, and this is something we’ve developed since 2018… but we’re not finished. What I could say I achieved was to go away from these very big names to smaller names, to women, to have, for example, women in jazz, other views on sex and gender, diversity, migration. We’ve had a lot of projects with migrants. In 2019 we had a big focus on the IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance]
because Luxembourg had the presidency, and we were the main partner on that. What was important for me was to make from this house a house with political art--not just to have a nice jazz concert, which we also have, but to have critical exhibitions, also showing difficult stuff. Part of the mission we decided [was also to have] political art, art that will change something in you--not just in an aesthetic way, but also with a message or something that [shows we are a] house of tolerance, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist. We have defined that and we have also the problem to follow these things. We have another artist in residency now, Leyla Rabih, who accompanied refugees [over a span of years]. She’s French-Syrian, lives and grew up in France and speaks Syrian Arabic very well, and she’s exploring the way of emancipation of these people who leave the country. In 2021 we will show the end result [of this] exploration. Can you give us a sneak peek into what else you have planned for 2021?
To have this artist-in-residency programme finished. When I say ‘finished’, I mean we need more spaces for people to work, extra budget for renovations because people need, for example, water to paint. Now we are [working] with what we have, but we cannot have as many artists to meet the demand we have, and because we don’t have the spaces for it. You need special lights, you cannot work everywhere.
How many do you take now, and where do you hope to be?
Now we have 15-17 per year, and we want to have double that in two years. Now we have more on one year than at the beginning, which is why I’m positive… Sometimes the residency isn’t just with the main artist but with people they need, for example, a translator, an assistant, actors… It depends on the discipline. How do the various artists in residency compare, for example, in terms of needs and duration?
For dance you cannot have old floors, so you have to adapt a big space. Some floors are dangerous for them, it’s too hard for them if they fall. It’s not like a writer. We have a residency in poetry, for example, and it’s the easiest thing to organise. The most challenging is dance and theatre. Musicians always want short residencies, like five days, night and day, they work and don’t sleep. Writers need more time, painters need a lot of time. Next year we have a big residency, a long time with a visual artist who paints on oil. And if you paint on oil, you need three days to put one colour, wait until it dries, and at the same time begin on something else… you cannot say three weeks… But [residencies] are tailor-made, we adapt to the needs. For example, in theatre what they like--and we are also learning--is a lot of residencies, but shorter ones. But musicians want the intensive thing, really intense. It’s very interesting how they work. ×
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Live performance finally returns this autumn. Here’s our selection of what not to miss Classical
Beethoven’iade OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020
To celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the Conservatoire is hosting a small ensemble to play a wide range of the composer’s works, from piano duets and solos to a selection of lieder and vocal music. Two pianists, a cellist and violinist will be performing alongside a singer and narrator. 27 October Conservatoire de la Ville de Luxembourg, Luxembourg-Merl ↳ www.conservatoire.lu Ciné-concert
Das alte Gesetz
With live gigs subject to coronavirus restrictions, one date that is unlikely to be postponed is Nick Cave’s “Idiot Prayer” concert, recorded in June at Alexandra Palace, London. Performing solo at his piano, Cave plays songs from his extensive catalogue--from early “Bad Seeds” and “Grinderman” to his most recent album--including tracks that only rarely make it onto his playlist. 5 November Kinepolis, Luxembourg-Kirchberg, Esch-Belval ↳ www.kinepolis.lu Jazz
Pascal Schumacher Luxembourg jazz artist Pascal Schumacher forms part of the Philharmonie’s slimmed down autumn line-up. His work “SOL” is inspired by the sun but will also mark the first time that the musician has played solo, having previously performed alongside artists such as US jazz pianist Kenny Barron, drummer Jeff Herr and the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. 24 October Philharmonie, Luxembourg-Kirchberg ↳ www.philharmonie.lu
Blast A sound designer for film, video and choreography, Luxembourgbased artist Rajivan Ayyappan delivers the soundtrack to contemporary dance piece “Blast” that echoes the soundscape before and after an explosion as well as the transformation experienced by the bodies caught up in the blast.
20 November Philharmonie, Luxembourg-Kirchberg ↳ www.philharmonie.lu
10 & 11 November Opderschmelz, Dudelange ↳ www.opderschmelz.lu
Photos → Joel Ryan → Fredrik Altinell→ Shutterstock → absolut Medien
With a new score by Philippe Schoeller, the 1923 feature film “Das alte Gesetz” celebrated a rediscovery at the 2018 Berlin film festival. The film by German director E. A. Dupont tells the story of a rabbi’s son who leaves his small town to become a celebrated theatre actor. The restored film is part of the Philharmonie’s “rainy days” programme.
La Dame aux Camélias
As the theatre season restarts, so does Kinepolis’s series of Bolshoi ballet screenings. “La Dame aux Camélias” premiered in 1978 and was adapted from a novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. It tells the story of Paris courtesan Marguerite Gautier and her lover Armand, and reportedly also inspired Baz Luhrmann’s film “Moulin Rouge”. 15 November
Kinepolis, Luxembourg-Kirchberg, Luxembourg-Limpertsberg, Esch-Belval
Photos → Pascal Gorriz → Louis Canadas → Marco Pavone → Emile Holba → Mikhail Logvinov / Bolshoi Ballet
Dinosaur In May UK jazz ensemble Dinosaur released their third album “To the Earth”, which The Guardian says “hooks your attention with the very first chord”. Nominated for a Mercury Prize for their 2016 debut album, the quartet--composed of trumpet, keyboard, drums and bass--celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. 25 November Neimënster, Luxembourg-Grund ↳ www.neimenster.lu
Inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel “The Glass Bead Game”, Christophe Chassol presents his latest project “Ludi”, a musical movie that mixes footage with music by the French composer. What Chassol has termed “Ultrascore” is his way of expressing reality in sound, synchronising images and music. Chassol most recently collaborated with US singersongwriter Frank Ocean and has previously worked with Phoenix and Sébastien Tellier.
Spanish theatre company Agrupación Señor Serrano uses a live video installation to connect contradictory worlds--war, poverty and worker exploitation on one side, and fully stacked supermarket shelves, wealth and safety on the other. Miniature birds and other creatures travel between both spheres showing how everything is in flux as three performers straddle different media, filming newspaper cuttings, superimposing one image on top of another and narrating the piece. Audiences follow the award-winning mélange on screen in English with French subtitles.
↳ www.atelier.lu Dance
Jinjeon Dancer and choreographer Jill Crovisier brings her latest project, “Jinjeon”, to the Grand Théâtre stage. This is a performance aimed at reflecting how technological progress influences human existence. Winner of the 2019 Luxembourg Danzpräis, Crovisier charts the impact of technology on the body and mind in her choreography for seven dancers, who are at risk of morphing from human to android. 2 & 3 December Grand Théâtre, Luxembourg-Limpertsberg ↳ www.theatres.lu
My favourite things The 1965 musical “The Sound of Music” is for me an essential ingredient for getting into the festive spirit. But, by the time “The hills are alive with the sound of” rumbling tummies, it’s probably already too late to start thinking about what you’re going to cook. This year, I took a cue from one of the film’s catchiest songs, ‘My Favorite Things’, which wonderfully captures the homely glow and heartwarming smells of a kitchen in winter. Here are three mouthwatering recipes inspired by the song, which I’ve tested. words
Jess Bauldry Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
There is no other food that says com fort quite like Luxem Gromperekichelch bourg potato cake er. A sizzling stack of the golden discs mittens against the is like a pair of wa wintery chill. Here rm is the official recipe tourism platform Vis from Luxembourg itluxembourg.com.
Also found in…
Potato cakes will be familiar to people from other European their own versions. cultures, which hav Poland may give Lux e embourg a run for to pronounce placki its money with its ziemniaczane, wh har d ich ten d to be served wit sauce or sour cream h a mushroom with a pinch of sug ar. Rösti potato cak were originally a bre es, meanwhile, akfast dish eaten by farmers in the Today, however, the Swiss canton of Be y are eaten all ove rn. r Sw itzerland and at all often with onion, bac times of the day, on and Alpine che ese. Jewish latkes, Yid dish for “pancake ”, are served as an side dish or swee appetiser, t treat to celebrat e the miracle of Ha the oil of the meno nukkah, when rah in the ransacked temple of Jerusalem for eight days eve stayed aflame n though there wa s only enough for one day. Lastly, Irish potato cakes, also known as “fadge” in North are prepared with ern Ireland and “bo a combination of xty”, mashed potato and grated raw potato. Serves 10
Ingredients 1,500g 100g 30g
How to make it potatoes shallots
butter 50g flour 5 pc eggs Parsley Pinch of salt Nutmeg
1 Peel and wa sh the
potatoes before grating. Lea ve in a colander to drain exc ess moisture.
2 Add choppe d sha
llots, crushed garlic and chopped parsley. 3 Fold the egg s into the mix, blend and season. 4 A dd flour and shape into patties before frying them in an oil-filled saucep an or deep-fat fryer.
WARM WOOLLEN MITTENS
To balance out the medium texture of trout, it’s best to source a mediumbodied, aromatic white wine or a rich, full-bodied white wine aged in oak barrels. Local grape varieties that pair well with trout include pinot gris or a dry riesling. If spreading your wine search beyond the borders, try a chilled chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, sémillon, white rioja or fiano.
CK AGES A P R E P A P N BROW STRINGS H IT W P U D IE T
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How to make it
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350ml Pinch of salt Pinch of parsley Here is the officia tourism platform:
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Photos → xxx → xxx → xxx
ped shallots 1 Sprinkle chop
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2. THE DOUGH (serves 4-6)
lukewarm water 1/3 of a cup (80g) neutral-tasting 1 tbsp and 1/2 tsp vegetable oil lemon juice or vinegar 1/2 tsp table salt 1/8 tbsp se flour urpo all-p or d brea 145g ed butter melt Knob
One of my favourite Luxembourgish words is “bongert”, or orchard. Although apple, pear, plum and cherry orchards are everywhere you look in Luxembourg, I wouldn’t recommend scrumping (stealing) for the ingredients for making “crisp apple strudels”--there’s possibly more choice in the supermarkets anyway. When choosing your fruit, select an apple with a nice tart flavour to balance out the sweetness of the pastry. I used Granny Smith apples. If you don’t have time to make the pastry, ready-made filo pastry also works.
1. THE FILLING (serves 4-6)
1.5 tbsp Zest 2 tbsp 100g
How to make it
ground cinnamon half unwaxed lemon lemon juice golden caster sugar
75g raisins soaked in rum (30 min) 75g
chopped nuts (macadamia)
1 Melt the butter in a pan
over a low heat and place the apple slices to simmer until soft. 2 Add the remaining
ingredients except for the icing sugar. 3 Once ready, sprinkle with
icing sugar and serve.
Flour for dusting Parchment paper
How to make it e and salt 1 Mix water, oil, lemon juic in a big bowl.
a minute, r, leaving then add the remaining flou k the Wor . ting dus for oon 1 tablesp Knead it flour until it forms a dough. Spread for 10 minutes until smooth. r the ove oil of n poo teas the half of a red dough, leave it to sit in a cove bowl for one hour. out the 3 Using a rolling pin, roll . Pick it dough on a floured surface s, stretch up and using your knuckle around. the dough while turning it hment Place it on the floured parc e tinu con tly gen and er pap until it stretching with your hands Shape starts to look translucent. r filling to into a rectangle. Add you gh, fold one half of the strudel dou s over an inch of pastry at the side red ove unc the h Brus the filling. Starting strudel with melted butter. g, start with the end with the fillin on the it e Plac del. to roll the stru down. parchment paper seam side e in Bak er. butt ted mel with Brush utes. an oven at 190°C for 30 min
2 Stir in half of the flour for
Photos → xxx → xxx → xxx
CRISP APPLE STRUDELS
When the concert starts...
N.Z. – Audience member
Live concerts from 17.09. Tickets available from 01.09. www.philharmonie.lu Partenaire automobile exclusif:
De Peffer Kär Last minute, first class words
Jess Bauldry Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
One of the greatest pleasures
of emerging from lockdown, besides still being alive and having an intact sense of taste, was the thought of eating food prepared and cleared away by someone else. So, it was with low expectations that when working from home in August my partner and I went out searching for a quick, simple bite. The two closest restaurants were closed, so, pressed for time and with snarling stomachs, we headed to the next nearest in Huncherange, De Peffer Kär. It wasn’t until we were being shown to our table, one of six in the restaurant, that we realised we had stumbled
into a gastronomic restaurant. Despite being dressed to mow someone’s lawn, co-owner Claude Rameau warmly welcomed us and our chèque-repas (luncheon vouchers). This man was a true artist, playing all roles bar chef, in the quiet and intimate theatre of his restaurant. There followed a series of jewel-like amuse-bouches, of which highlights included tiny tartlets with fat, sweet, crunchy peas, and quivering jellied rabbit. Between courses, from behind his visor, Rameau chatted at length about French wines (he was voted sommelier of the year in the Gault&Millau Luxembourg 2020 guide) and
his local produce suppliers, which include Les Paniers de Sandrine and Apemh. What I remember vividly from that meal is vibrant colours, whether in the delightful fruit and vegetable-themed modern artworks that adorn the walls or the interplay of natural hues in the presentation. We skipped starters for the sake of time, and the appetisers kept the growling at bay until our mains arrived. My wild turbot on fregola pasta cooked risotto style with saffron shellfish sauce was a small but adequately sized portion. The subtle flavours in the sauce kept it light. My partner chose the rabbit, whose local postcode added to its charm. The meat was served on a nest of blue foot mushrooms with a sage mousse. Not too overpowering, the flavours were complemented by a glass of Corbières.
Sadly, we were too full to sample anything from the cheese trolley and finished by sharing an inventive dessert of sweet white peach, apricot and bitter rosemary on a gooey almond and chocolate biscuit. This was followed by coffee served with complementary petits fours. At €115 for the two of us, it was at the upper end of lunch on the hoof. But I see it as a small price for the great story we got out of it. The time we accidentally dined in one of the area’s finest eateries. ×
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49 route d’Esch, L-3340 Huncherange 51 35 75 ↳ www.de-pefferkaer.lu
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Any parent will tell you:
Retail or secondhand? A few ideas for keeping youngsters warm this winter season. words
Natalie A. Gerhardstein and Duncan Roberts
Unicorner Concept Store
Hey Little Baby
Beetles & Bugs
Founded by two young entrepreneurs, the shop is divided into two parts: MintMouse, selling children’s shoes (including sturdy winter boots), and The Party Ville, for all those event planning needs (like for kids’ birthdays). Several other unique items in the shop make it a good spot to find a perfect gift too.
Looking for exclusive, lesser- known brands? This Luxembourg-based shop is online only and a true family business, powered by their love for design and tiny customers. The site, which has regular sales, offers a range of not just clothing but also furniture, snuggly toys, school supplies and even some items for expectant mothers.
Many of the clothing carried by Beetles & Bugs have a certain minimalist aesthetic. It’s a fun place to find chunky hats and muffs, knitted cardigans and adorable pyjamas. In addition to interior and décor, there’s also a decent selection of wooden toys and puzzles.
While Facebook Marketplace can be a place to find second hand items, a few local parents’ groups make it much easier to filter out baby or child clothing. Case in point: “ Kanner an Bébé Secondhand”, a Facebook group which now counts around 12,000 members, meaning if you see an item you like, you’ll need to move fast. “Luxembourg Parents” and “Kids Corner” are other resources worth bookmarking, where you’ll find not just gently used clothing, shoes and equipment, but parents tend to provide each other tip-offs about events, including secondhand sales. But when buying new can’t be avoided, or for those in the market for a gift, we’ve included a few ideas in the box on the left. × ↳ www.second-hand-shop.lu
Photo: Shutterstock → Illustrations : Maison Moderne
children grow fast. Preschool-aged children grow on average 3 inches per year, and as of 5 years it’s still around 2 inches per year until puberty, according to Parents. It’s no wonder, then, that plenty of parents turn to secondhand options. And what better time to stock up before the coldest months hit? Of course, while you’re stocking up (ideally for a size or two ahead, while you’re at it) and sorting out the old, it’s also a good time to swap clothing or make a donation. Sometimes, informal parent groups formed through school, work or neighbourhoods put on secondhand sales. But for those in a bind, or who haven’t quite found their network, there are plenty of options for second- hand in the grand duchy. In the capital city places like the Trouvailles secondhand store (link below) stock children’s clothes at significantly low prices, for example.
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Arendt & Medernach
Fonds du Logement
G Ilaria Galeota
B Stéphane Badey
Grand Ducal Fire and
Banque Internationale à Luxembourg62 Maiah Bartlett
Bléi vum Séi
Cube Infrastructure Managers
D De Peffer Kär
Luxembourg Private Equity and 74
Maitland62 Pascal Martino
Melia Hotel Luxembourg
JTC62 Juma Soap
Ministry of housing
Ministry of tourism
Quintet Private Bank
R Roxane Rajabali
Reworked by Ilaria
S Djillali Sadki
Société Nationale des Habitations à Bon Marché
The Happy Guts’ Company
The Spice Collection
East-West United Bank
Luxembourg for Finance
Ministry for small and
Venture Capital Association
Rescue Corps (CGDIS)
Occupational Health Association for
the Tertiary and the Financial Sector (ASTF) Jennifer Olding
33, 36 44
Walferdange Rugby Club
A multi-purpose deposit system designed in Luxembourg to transport meals. Whether at the restaurant, canteen or takeaway, the ECOBOX can be used almost everywhere. The multiple use of the ECOBOX will eliminate many disposable packagings. This initiative reduces the volume of waste because it does not only scale down the number of packages, but also the amount of food waste.
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Auntie Eleanor Masking the issue
This month, Delano’s advice columnist answers reader questions on the return to the office, Christmas presents and community radio.
Dear Auntie Eleanor, everywhere I look I see people who wear their mask below their nose. How can I tactfully let them know that’s not the right way? Linda in Limpertsberg
Gentle reader, I recently witnessed two passengers on a bus nearly come to blows over how to correctly wear a mask. It was most uncomfortable. You don’t want to find yourself threatened by one of these so-called sniffers and going in guns blazing may only make matters worse. Politely remind someone who isn’t covering their nose and mouth that wearing a mask isn’t just about them but helps protect everyone, including your dear old Auntie Eleanor. Or just point at their nose, give them a stern look and purposefully move away. With winter just around the corner, I think masks could be a fashionable way of keeping your nose nice and warm rather than it turning into an icicle. I will be sewing some festive masks with all the trimmings.
Dear Auntie Eleanor, now that people are beginning to return to the office, I have to ask, what did you think of your telecommute experience and are you continuing to work remotely? Tom in Troisvierges
Gentle reader, call me old fashioned, but I don’t think that I could take another day of choppy video conference calls, fiddly digital whiteboards and dodgy télé-apéros. Besides, there is nothing like the bustle of the busy Delano newsroom: the clickity-clack
SEND IN YOUR QUESTION Want to know something about Luxembourg? Contact Auntie Eleanor via AuntieEleanor@delano.lu. Please indicate if Delano can publish your name or if you wish to remain anonymous.
of harried reporters typing copy right up to deadline and someone shouting ‘get me rewrite’ because they have a late-breaking scoop (or maybe they’ve just spelled Gromperekichelcher incorrectly). That’s my style, even if we have to follow a laundry list of mask, gel and plexiglass rules, and it’s obviously a bit riskier. Of course, these are crazy times and I don’t besmirch anyone who wants to continue to work from home. Everyone needs to take care of themselves. But I’ll be working in the office as long as they let me. Dear Auntie Eleanor, since the Bazar International was cancelled, where can I buy my Christmas presents? Harriet in Hesperange
Gentle reader, look at you being so organised you’re already thinking about Christmas presents. It is a shame, isn’t it, that the
bazaar has been called off this year, but could you imagine managing those crowds under virus rules? There are lots of options to support local businesses and more Luxembourg shops than ever before are now selling their wares online if you want to avoid the Christmas crush. And there are new kinds of gifts, too. Have you seen those refillable hand sanitiser keychains? With all the funds the bazaar normally raises for a good cause, you could also consider donating some of the money you were planning to spend on presents. And keep an eye out for smaller events hosted by some of the stalls until the bazaar can hopefully be back in all its glory next year. Dear Auntie Eleanor, you’re no doubt aware that the long-term viability of our beloved Radio Ara is under threat for financial reasons. Do you listen to the radio, and what do you think is the right model for keeping community radio alive? Kerry in Kahler
Gentle reader, the wireless has been a constant companion throughout my life as far back as the 1940s. During lockdown, it was particularly comforting. Radio Ara offers a place for people to discover their voice, a platform for different cultures and the space for more risky projects to grow. It was created and run by volunteers, but life is busy. And today, that model is no longer sustainable. I believe the government can find some money, perhaps through integration and education funding pots. I also believe we can all show our support by donating now and then. And perhaps, it’s time for different communities to get involved and step up with their time. Anyone want to join DJ LNR on Oldies Radio? ×
Illustration → Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
We’re both moving in! Visit ing.lu/immo ING Luxembourg S.A. - 26, Place de la Gare, L-2965 Luxembourg - R.C.S. Luxembourg B.6041 - TVA LU 11082217 - ing.lu