Credit: Jazmin Campbell

On Friday 24 June 2022, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the death of Pierre Werner, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Luxembourg inaugurated a new exhibition dedicated to the "father of the euro".

Pierre Werner was a Luxembourgish lawyer and politician, who served as the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg from 1959 to 1974 and then again from 1979 to 1984. A fervent advocate of European integration, he presented his vision for a European economic and monetary union in the form of the Werner Plan in October 1970. As well as leaving his mark on Europe as a whole, Mr Werner played an instrumental role in the economic diversification of Luxembourg, particularly during the steel crisis, as the country's prime minister, a role in which he served for a total of 20 years.

On Friday afternoon, the Czech Embassy hosted the opening of its exhibition "Pierre Werner: Père de l’euro" (Pierre Werner: Father of the euro), which pays homage to the Luxembourgish politician 20 years after his death. The content of the exhibition was prepared by Pierre Werner's son, Henri Werner, and supported by the University of Luxembourg. The opening was held in the presence of members of Mr Werner's family, various ambassadors accredited to Luxembourg and the Minister of Family, Integration and the Greater Region, Corinne Cahen, among other guests.

The villa that today houses the Czech Embassy (since 2006), and thus this new exhibition, belonged to Pierre Werner from 1955 until his death in 2002. As Vladimír Bärtl, the Czech Ambassador to Luxembourg, explained, the Czech Republic and the Grand Duchy "have close relations […] which began during the time of three generations of Luxembourg monarchs (starting with John the Blind) on the Bohemian throne". The Ambassador continued: "This year, we are celebrating the centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the commemoration of Pierre Werner fits into this context". He added that Czechia will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) shortly (on 1 July 2022). 

The Czech Ambassador then gave the floor to Marie-Anne Werner, daughter of the late Pierre Werner, who began by thanking the former for having reached out to her family to organise this special exhibition in honour of her father. She reflected on her childhood, living in this very house with her family, and the important role played by music in the Werner family. She was grateful that the Czech Embassy that now occupied the building had decided to make it "a place of memory". She also recalled the many links that unite Czechia and Luxembourg, referring to the Bohemian monarchs, but also her father’s trips to Prague from the early 1990s on and the links maintained between successive Czech Ambassadors and her family. She particularly thanked Ambassador Bärtl for his efforts in this regard, describing him as "a man of culture, encounters and initiatives".

Ms Werner continued: “Remembrance is, beyond heart ties, a means of honouring a person and recognising their merits, of understanding the influence they have had on our life, and in this case also that of our country". She recalled how eagerly her father had been awaiting the arrival of the euro and the important moment when she placed the currency in his hands, on 1 January 2002, and they went to buy water in the cafeteria of Fondation Pescatore. She went on to describe him as "father of the euro, father of five children, father of many other things", highlighting his role in the space sector. "Here too he had traced and paved the way, drawing inspiration from the radio communication that had put the Grand Duchy on the map".

Marie-Anne Werner expressed her hope that viewers find and draw inspiration from this exhibition. She noted: "I think that everyone will be able to find in this ceremony, and in view of the friendly exhibition at the gate, memories for some, discoveries for others, but above all, and this is my big wish, visions and motivations to help the society of the 21st century to move forward with the ambition of fraternity, justice and peace". She went on to quote the words of her late father: "The reality of my life and my activities immersed in reality gives me the conviction that the ideal of generous life between humans is still far from being achieved. It may not come true in this world. My life has nevertheless convinced me that the centuries pass, including the one in which I lived, and alongside their dramas, also sow new seeds of generosity and humanism".

Luxembourg cellist and granddaughter of Pierre Werner, Annemie Osborne, then played Johann Sebastian Bach’s Minuet of Suite No. 1 in G Major for cello solo, before performing Edmond de la Fontaine’s (better known as Dicks) T si vill schéi Rousen an der Stad alongside Polish tenor Marcin Wierzbicki. Ms Osborne and La Confrérie du chant traditionnel (joined by the Czech Ambassador) next performed Dicks' D’Pierle vum Da (which Pierre Werner sang for then US President John F Kennedy during a State dinner at the White House in April 1963), before singing the Luxembourgish and Czech national anthems, Ons Heemecht and Kde domov můj, respectively.

Later in the afternoon, Annemie Osborne and Marcin Wierzbicki performed a few more songs for a delegation of the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic. Members of Pierre Werner's family joined them in singing, an experience which Ambassador Bärtl described as "very heartwarming".

The exhibition will remain on display on the gates outside the Czech Embassy (2 Rond-point Robert Schuman, L-2525 Luxembourg) for approximately one month, after which another exhibition, dedicated to the centenery of Czechia-Luxembourg diplomatic relations, will take its place.