Georges Schmit: After having spent some 35 years in economic development and innovation policy design and implementation, I recently retired from the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy. I spent the last seven years of my career as the consul general of Luxembourg in San Francisco, which gave me the opportunity to identify and understand new technological and business trends. This in turn helped to ignite and design recent government policy initiatives, such as in the fintech and space resources areas, and to promote Luxembourg as a forward-looking location to do business in Europe. Today I continue to advise the government, the University of Luxembourg, as well as private companies in these areas.
What does Luxembourg need to do to remain competitive and a player in today’s world? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Competitiveness reflects the ability to attract and retain resources--capital, talent, technology--necessary for economic growth. It means that Luxembourg needs to be perceived by business decision makers, entrepreneurs and talented people as a country where they enjoy a high reward in implementing their business goals and live their personal dreams. Agility and reactivity in policy making and a high service quality in infrastructure--transportation, energy, data and telecommunications, education, research, healthcare, culture, government services--appear to be essential ingredients. Luxembourg does well in most of those areas, but should strive for continuous improvement in all of them.
How has Luxembourg society evolved during the last 20 years?
Increasing diversity seems to have been the leading factor to characterise Luxembourg society over the past generation. Diversity of national origin of our population, diversity of the economy and of value creation, diversity of educational and cultural offerings…While this trend may have caused fear of identity loss for some, I feel that diversity also has largely enriched our society and has become an essential ingredient of our ever-evolving identity and the values it stands for.
What does it mean to be a Luxembourger?
To me it means both understanding your roots--Luxembourg is a historical accident as we have been reminded recently, and our identity as a nation is still very young and continues to evolve--and being open to new trends and opportunities for personal growth and societal evolution. It means embracing the values of personal freedom, reward for effort, respect and tolerance for other--non-violent--opinions and beliefs, equal opportunity and solidarity.
Do you want to live abroad? If you lived abroad, what prompted you to return?
I have spent one quarter of my life abroad and recently returned to Luxembourg from what is considered by many as one of the most attractive locations in the world. However, I continue to find in Luxembourg a very high standard of living in a most attractive natural and cultural environment.
When you talk about Luxembourg to non-Luxembourgers, what do they say?
For those who know Luxembourg, most are impressed with our country’s achievements, its international role and contribution, its quality of life, and natural beauties. For those who don’t, they are curious and often wonder how such a small country can survive.
Do you feel there is a real national identity? Is it threatened by the evolving demography and the fact that the foreign population is growing?
We should remind ourselves that our today’s national identity is a rather recent occurrence. It has been formed to a large extent during and as a result of the second world war and continues to evolve. As I previously said, I do not feel our identity is threatened by the evolving demography. Quite to the contrary, our identity is embracing demographic diversity as one of its unique constituent elements while encouraging the use of our language as the conduit for transmitting our values.
What’s your favourite Luxembourgish word?
Moien! Wéi geet et? Without us often realising, they reflect our welcoming openness and can be said at any time of the day! We should share them in Luxembourgish with anyone we meet!
In 2017, what will you do to ensure that the slogan “Let’s make it happen” will happen?
“Let’s make it happen” reflects Luxembourg’s ambition to evolve, to improve, to take up new challenges and succeed! I endeavour to promote these “can do” values with my teenage grandchildren.
In 2017 Maison Moderne and Nvision celebrate Luxembourg by profiling 100 people who contribute positively to the country’s international reputation and brand image. The series will culminate in a gala evening on 13 December at Luxembourg Congrès.