‘Small country, grand vision: Luxembourg and the European idea’ — conference given by Jacques Santer

The highlight of the academic event was the lecture ‘Small country, grand vision: Luxembourg and the European idea’ given by Jacques Santer, Honorary Minister of State, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, former President of the European Commission and a member of the Patronage Committee for the ‘Pierre Werner and Europe’ research project.

Santer emphasised the fact that, of all the Member States of the European Union, Luxembourg has the longest experience when it comes to economic and political integration — experience dating back more than 170 years, with origins extending much further back to the Middle Ages. The country’s geopolitical situation, its limited size and market, a lack of natural resources and a small labour force have meant that it has always had to be open to its neighbours. For Luxembourg, regional and cross-border cooperation has always been vital. But it was after the Second World War that the country’s integration efforts began to take on a new dimension, via the European project.

Santer provided an overview of Luxembourg’s history as an EU founding state, mentioning the role of Luxembourg City as the first place of work of the Community institutions and then, alongside Brussels and Strasbourg, as a permanent capital of the European institutions (Luxembourg still houses the headquarters of the EU’s legal and financial institutions). He particularly alluded to the fundamentally pro-European views of the Luxembourg people, who were awarded the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen in 1986 in recognition of this attitude.

He went on to mention the European achievements of many Luxembourg politicians, who have played a major role in the building of a united Europe, including Robert Schuman (who was born in Luxembourg), Joseph Bech, Pierre Werner, Gaston Thorn and, more recently, Jean-Claude Juncker.  While emphasising the current challenges and prospects for the European project, Santer concluded by affirming that the continuity and influence of the European leaders from Luxembourg will remain one of the country’s major strengths.