AGM and Talk about Electoral Systems

On June 14th, we had our Annual General Meeting. After the reports of our Chairman, Treasurer and Auditor, and the discharge of the outgoing committee and and auditor, we voted in our new Committee. Peter Munro will re-join the committee as Co-Chairman, Jan Könighaus being the other Co-chairman. They will take over from David Clark who led the OUSL through many successful years. David will remain active on the committee, which will also be strenghtened by our new Member Lidiya Cherneva. Mette Ahlefeldt and Harriet Hansen-Stone will step down however. We thank them gratefully for their commitment during the event-ful past years.

After the formalities, we enjoyed a talk by committee member Dan Schmit, who gave an overview of the different electoral systems in Europe. We learned about the purely proportional system (e.g. Netherlands, Denmark), regional representation of constituencies (UK), two-round voting (currently happening in France), and single transferable vote elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We saw that German voters cast two votes, one direct vote and one for a party or list. Of course we also reviewed the Luxembourg System, where voters receive as many votes as there are candidates in their constituency.

A lively Q&A and discussion followed, as is usual at OUSL meetings. We thank David and Marilyn Clark for their hospitality, and the drinks and snacks they prepared for the very enjoyable AGM.

Oxford and Cambridge Benelux and Rhineland Reunion 2022

The Oxford University and Cambridge University Societies in Luxembourg organised a successful reunion weekend in Luxembourg for alumni of the Universities in the Benelux and Rhineland where there are active alumni societies for the two Universities.

Events kicked off on the evening of Friday 6th May with a wildly successful Brazilian party at Maria Bonita in the Rives de Clausen. The following morning a somewhat more sober conference on the EU Luxembourgbased institutions was held at the Cercle Cité. Speakers included Ian Forrester, former Judge of the General Court, Geoffrey Simpson, Director of Audit Quality and Audit Methodology at the European Court of Auditors and Francis Carpenter, former Secretary-General of the European Investment Bank and CEO of the European Investment Fund. All speakers were informative and entertaining and provided exceptional insight into their respective institutions. The conference was sponsored by Clifford Chance.

Tours were arranged around the historic centre of Luxembourg and its fortifications as well as to the Mudam and Dräi Eechelen museums. There was a marvellous exhibition of paintings by black British artist Lynette Yiadom Boakye which runs till September. Dr Dan Schmit (MPhil, Oxon) a staffer at the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies gave a tour of the Chamber and a talk on the Luxembourg political institutions. Professor Alan Wirth gave a superb concert of baroque organ music at the Church of St Michel. The ancient cities of Oxford and Cambridge would have been hard-pressed to match the beauty and serenity of the surroundings and the music.

The day ended with a black-tie Gala Dinner for 88 people at the Cercle Munster which was opened by a Latin grace spoken by Oxford graduate David Weis. Special guest Martine Reicherts, president of Luxembourg’s Fonds National de Recherche, gave an address on Innovation in Luxembourg. We were also honoured by the presence of the Deputy Ambassador of the United States, Casey Mace and his wife Anne. Mr Mace proposed a toast to the Transatlantic Alliance and spoke briefly of how the Ukrainian crisis has reinforced the need for transatlantic friendship. David Clark, Chair of the Oxford Society proposed a toast to His Royal Highness the Grand Duke and to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Martin Curwen, President of the Cambridge Society toasted the two Universities. All guests enjoyed an exceptionally convivial evening laid on by the Cercle Munster’s superb staff.

The weekend was rounded off with a tour of one of Luxembourg’s premier vineyards, Château Pauqué, understandably limited to 30 participants. Cambridge Secretary and oenophile, John Speed, rated the event one of the very best he has attended. In conclusion, the Oxford and Cambridge Luxembourg Societies have achieved their objectives of promoting friendship amongst the alumni of the two universities and displaying the best that Luxembourg can provide.

Below a photo impression. Here is a link to an elaborate photo album, compiled by John Speed.

Guided tour of the “Raschpëtzer”

On St George’s day we enjoyed a guided visit to the “Rashpëtzer”, the Luxembourgisch name for the world’s largest Roman Qanat. We saw how the erstwhile tunneling construction pits had been sinking over time, and how the Qanat was discovered in 1914, then explored by the Walferdange Syndicat d’Initiative, our host for the afternoon.
In the 2nd century A.D., the Qanat was an underground aquaduct that brought water from an aquifer in the woods to a Roman settlement with army barracks in the Alzette Valley. From the guide we learned that the Romans were very particular about their drinking water and avoided rivers at all costs, for the danger of poisoning. They imported a Persian tunneling technique and employed it in current day Luxembourg to source sandstone filtered water.
We were shown into an underground gallery where we admired how the Romans hygienically transported their drinking water over a large distance under the beautiful Grengewald forest. Although not used for drinking water anymore, the Qanat is still working as it was two thousand years ago.

Diplomacy and Power in a Technological Age

On March 10th, the OUSL and the Bridge Forum Dialogue organized a conference given by Tom Fletcher CMG, Principal of Hertford College, former UK Ambassador and foreign policy adviser to three British Prime Ministers, bestselling author and Oxford University’s youngest Head of College, who shared reflections on how we can respond to a world in flux.

He was joined by two discussants: Arlette Conzemius, former Luxembourg Ambassador to Belgium and NATO and Urban Gillström Founder and CEO of Greenworlder (Luxembourg). The meeting was chaired by Hugo Woestmann of the Bridge Forum Dialogue and moderated by David Clark.

Digital technology is changing power at a faster rate than at any time in history. Distrust and inequality are fuelling political and economic uncertainty. The scaffolding built around the global order is fragile, and the checks and balances created over centuries to protect liberty are being tested, maybe to destruction. Tom Fletcher gave his view how we – as governments, businesses and individuals – can survive and thrive in the twenty-first century and how we can ensure that technology can make it easier for citizens truly to take back control.
His speech contained elements of his bestselling book “The Naked Diplomat” and his latest book “Ten Survival Skills for a World in Flux”.

The event was hybrid, with the live event held at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, where a large audience actively participated. The even was streamed on the OUSL youtube channel. See the recording below.

“Sin, Sex and Salvation” Seminar by Dr. Mette M. Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

On February 24th, we enjoyed a lively presentation of our member Mette Ahlefeldt on “churching”, a ritual of readmitting women into Church and society after childbirth.

We learned that this ritual, rooted in the Old Testament, was wide-spread throughout late-medieval Europe. It was a rite that celebrated the married matron, shamed the unwed and challenged the Lutheran clergy. The ritual of churching of women, whether Catholic or Lutheran, persisted well into the nineteenth and even the twentieth century in places.

In a very lively and interactive talk Mette entertained us with the raisons d’être of “churching” based on historical beliefs surrounding sin, sex and salvation. The topic and the stories made for engaging discussions over the exclusive meal that we enjoyed at Cercle Münster after Mette’s talk.

We had an excellent turnout, and it was nice to see so many members again after the Covid-induced hiatus of OUSL get-togethers.

Visit to Kneip’s Art Collection

On December 8th, we enjoyed an exclusive visit to KNEIP’s Art Collection.
With great enthusiasm Bob Kneip explained to us the process of bringing together the extraordinary collection of Pop Art, including works of César, Döring, Errò, Fifax, Haring, Huart, Strainchamps, Warhol and Wesselmann among others.
Approximately 20 members were invited to a guided tour, with engaging questions and answers. The event ended with drinks and canapés generously sponsored by KNEIP.

Thinking in Poetry

On 25 October 2021, the Oxford University Society Luxembourg, the Cambridge Society of Luxembourg, the British-Luxembourg Society, and the Conférence Saint-Yves have invited Sir Michael Edwards to talk about poetry. Sir Michael Edwards is an Anglo-French poet and a member of the Académie Française.
The event was organised in the Evangelische Kirche located in the Old-City of Luxembourg.
After a musical entertainment offered by the major of the Luxembourg Pipe Band, a word of welcome was given by Professor André Prüm, President of the moral sciences and politics section of the Institut Grand-Ducal.

Tri-Universities Dinner

On September 30th, the university alumni societies in Luxembourg of Oxford, Cambridge and the LSE held their much delayed, annual black tie dinner. The event was held in the Salle des Chevaliers of the romantic Château de Bourglinster, where we enjoyed a Michelin star meal and, more importantly, each other’s company.

Eighty five guests attended including the Minister of Finance, Pierre Gramegna and the British Ambassador, HE Fleur Thomas. The traditional speech was given by Dr  Hubertus von Morr, a former German Ambassador to Luxembourg and currently Secretary General of “The International Club La Redoute” in Bonn. He spoke on “The German Elections, what happens now?” mentioning the almost total absence of debate on international and European matters during the campaign. He also stressed how young voters strongly supported the FDP and the Greens, and the question mark hanging over the future of the large traditional parties, the SDP and the CDU/CSU who each only managed to garner around 25% of the vote.

David Clark, Chairman of the Oxford University Society of Luxembourg was Master of Ceremonies. Minister Gramegna toasted to HRH Grand Duke Henri and spoke of the importance of the foreign community to Luxembourg. Their presence helped significantly in promoting economic growth. HE Fleur Thomas toasted to HM Queen Elizabeth II. Martin Curwen, President of the Cambridge Society and Nigel Williams President of the LSE Alumni Association spoke briefly and thanked the Oxford University Society for undertaking the organisation of this year’s event.

David Clark, British Ambassador Fleur Thomas, and Minister of Finance Pierre Gramegna
Speech by Dr. Hubertus von Morr

More photos are available here, courtesy of John Speed, of the Cambridge University Society Luxembourg.

Croquet in the Park

On an Indian Summer Sunday, September 26th, we played croquet in the Pescatore Park, with friends from the Luxembourg Cambridge University Society. Three mixed teams discussed strategies before employing their mallets to drive balls through hoops or making ‘roquets’ to earn additional ‘goes’.

Of course there was also a lot of catching up too, over crémant and snacks left over from our last outdoor event of before the summer. It was wonderful to meet up with friends again after the somewhat depressing second Covid-summer. We thank Fanny and Rakesh for organizing the event and John for making a wonderful photo album.

Fresher’s Dinner

Last September 14th, we had our annual Fresher’s Dinner. Two first year bachelor students (Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry) and one beginning MBA student shared an Italian meal with two current students, and seven alumni, some of whom helped with practice interviews.

Stories, advice and directions were exchanged. In fact it was such an engaging evening that we once more forgot to make pictures! So here’s one from the restaurant.