The Hon. Erna Hennicot Schoepges (Former Minister of Culture and Religious Affairs of Luxembourg)

08.11.2009 - Interview conducted by Max Marioni

Erna Hennicot Schoepges is a Luxembourger Politician. In 1976 she joined the Walferdange Municipal Council and in 1979 she was elected National President of Christian Socialist Women, a post which she kept until 1988. In 1989 she was appointed a five-year position as President of the Chamber of Deputies in Luxembourg after having been a member since 1979. In 1995 she was appointed Minister for National Education and Vocational Training and Minister for Culture and Minister for Religious Affairs. She served in these positions until 1999. Schoepges was Minister for Higher Education, Research and Culture and Minister for Public Works until 2004. During this time she was involved in the creation of the National Research Fund, in joining the European Space Agency and in creating the University of Luxembourg, which opened in 2003. From 1999 to 2003 she served as president of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) in Luxembourg. In 2004 she was elected into the European Parliament, where she now sits as a member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP). In recent years she has been made Chairwoman of the Pierre Werner Institute (2004) and Chairwoman of the Committee of Honour of the Echternach International Festival (2004). Throughout her career she has demonstrated a pro-European attitude to politics. Although she supports European unity, she is also active in promoting the preservation of Luxembourg’s unique culture and identity.

Schoepges attended the “World Without Walls” congress as a guest speaker and participated in two panel discussions, one entitled ‘A Strong Europe is an Integrated Europe’ and the  other, ‘Moving Beyond Borders: Together Towards a World Without Walls.’ Along with other Ministers and Heads of States she discussed the challenges and opportunities that European integration brings as well as the roles of governments, the private sector and civil society in ensuring global stability. Schoepges kindly took the time to speak with CD News about Luxembourgian culture and the possibility of a pan-European culture. 

Does the University of Luxembourg offer its foreign students a chance to learn about culture in depth?

Yes. Not only in culture, we have three faculties. We also have the faculty of Law, which mainly concerns European Law, and then we have of course the presence of the Court of Justice. So that enables students to have a stage and to have direct interaction with the judges. They can find themselves in the midst of where the European legislation is created. The other big issue is the financing with the banks. We have a school of finance in Luxembourg. And then on the side of technology we have information technologies and biotechnology. The third faculty is language teaching, philosophy and the arts.

With the further integration of Europe do you feel that Luxembourgian culture will be under threat?

No, the culture of Luxembourg is not under threat. On the contrary the culture of Luxembourg has experienced tremendous enlargement since we became a member of the European Union. It stems from the feeling of identity in Luxembourg, which has built itself up ever since the occupation during the Second World War. We have noticed that the amount of literature in our national language, Luxembourgish, is increasing. The amount of theatre has increased as well. In addition we have the advantage of being a multi-lingual state. So we have theatre in French, in German and in English. We have a great spectrum of cultural activities that are both European and World Wide.

Luxembourg was one of the founding members of the European Community and is situated in the centre of Europe. Do you think from this perspective that a Pan-European culture can exist?

No. I think that we should not strive for a mix of all the European cultures. We have diversity in Europe and we should speak of pluralism instead. I am talking about cultural pluralism as I believe that cultures are not mixed together easily. Cultures can be inspired by other cultures and no culture can exist alone. A culture has to open up to others and be acceptant of new inputs. However this is done without copying another culture. They integrate in their own ways without making one culture predominant over the other. Overall, I think that cultural roots are very specific and unique for every human being.  

Ms. Schoepges, thank you very much. I hope you enjoy the rest of the congress.