The Campus of Peace according to Jacques SANTER

Jacques SANTER, a former President of Luxembourg and then of the European Commission, shares his experience of peace and multi-culturalism on the International Campus.


by Hélène Hernandez

“If you want to know about the values I encountered on the International Campus, they are certainly those of cooperation among peoples and nations of different cultures.”

The Campus as a platform for inter-cultural encounters

“The values are, in the first instance, those which I, myself, encountered when I spent time there. I lived for 3 years on the International Campus at the Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre. It was there that I encountered for the first time in my life, as well as Luxemburgeois and European students, African students, for example from the then Belgian Congo. It was in the 50’s and it was my encounter with other cultures, especially that of the Africa of that period. It is a memory I have cherished all my life, including my political life. An aspect of the International Campus, where I shared life with other resident academics, which has always struck me, is that every region, whether it be in Africa, in Asia or in Europe is visited in peace and dialogue.
If you want to know about the values I encountered on the International Campus, they are certainly those of cooperation among peoples and nations of different cultures. It is a Campus for Peace which moreover first saw the light of day, and this is something that is important to commemorate today, 100 years ago after the disaster of the First World War, which started in 1914. It was precisely in the 20’s, after the First World War, the start of which and its countless dead we are commemorating today, that the Campus saw its first expansion. It was therefore a Campus which wanted to build peace between peoples, and I believe that these are fundamental values, which are implicit in the academic mind and certainly would deserve recognition by the Nobel committee. “

The Campus as a model to show to the world

“It would be necessary to export and duplicate this place of apprenticeship, because it is a platform for dialogue and cooperation between peoples and nations and different cultures. Whether these cultures are African, European or Asiatic, I believe that today it is more important than ever to promote this dialogue. What is equally important is that the International Campus gathers together today, among others, the academic elite of these countries. These young people are called to contribute to the development in their own countries when they return to working life, whether that be professional or academic, but they are also called to contribute to the development between peoples and between countries. I believe that this is a quite special aspect, because it is effectively the youth of tomorrow, who are impelled – by dialogue and cooperation in the context of the International Campus activities- to collaborate later in life, to form and forge links of tolerance and good understanding between different cultures.
It is a model which may also be required on other continents. I shall not say that it is an item for export, but indeed, in Paris a certain spirit of dialogue etc. is being forged. This humanist frame of mind, which is implicit in our civilisation, must serve the interests of humanity as a whole.
I believe that it is a model, which perhaps merits being imitated elsewhere, so that it exists not just in Europe, in Paris, this city of light par excellence, but so that it exists on other continents precisely for the purpose of exporting this humanist frame of mind. Today this is perhaps more necessary than ever. The world is becoming globalised; it has become larger and closer. This frame of mind must be passed on. “

The Campus as promoter of youth and diversity

“It is essential that young people should have a certain degree of mobility. I have been President of the European Commission. There we promoted the Erasmus Programme, which has been very successful. It is, moreover, the most successful programme in all the European community, although it does not appear in the community programme itself. More than 2 million young people benefit from this mobility.
I think that this is the sort of attractive feature which should be developed, for example, in the area of research. We are making a great deal of progress in this area, but research must not become localised in certain countries. There must be cooperation between the various universities in the world. Major projects have been realised in the past few years, but they must be channelled once more towards those peoples and continents less privileged than others. This is an aspect which has always been cultivated on the International University Campus in Paris. There also, the Campus and its spirit can contribute to the development of humanity for the diversification of wealth among the different continents.
There are many young people who transit through the Campus and who learn to have this spirit of internationalism. As for myself, in my youth I had never come across certain cultures, for example, from Africa. It was at the International Campus that I encountered, in my own residence, young Congolese and Algerians. That is how one learns. The International Campus is really needed to expand the horizons of young academics. “

“On the International Campus I experienced this contact between nations, which also motivated me in my future career.”

The Campus as a unique personal experience.

“This was precisely my personal experience at the International Campus. I spent three years there and they were the best moments of my youth as a student. I began my first university studies in Strasbourg, then I went to Paris and it was there, really, that I discovered this international contact, which has motivated me in my later career. I come from a small country, Luxemburg, which is to a great extent turned in on itself. But, there, I experienced that openness of spirit which has certainly guided me in my later career; on the national scale, but also on the European scale. I have also perhaps integrated this international frame of mind into my professional and political activities more than others have done.
The sense of togetherness among the students themselves is important, across all the Campus activities. In my time it was another epoch, it was the 50’s (I stayed there from 1958 to 1961). For me it was a significant personal experience and also I felt a sense of being together with others in a situation, where you establish contacts, which last a lifetime. Still today I come across people who were my fellow students or fellow lodgers on the Campus at given moments. We find each other again. It was thus that I attended the anniversary of the Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre. I had many long conversations with the people I met there. There is a personal side which links us to the Campus.”