13 AUGUST 1994, Page 20

Frank response

Sir: The article by Christopher Lockwood about Luxembourg (`The mouse that roars', 23 July) contains so many errors, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

To begin with, Letzebuergesch is not `supposedly a Flemish dialect of German'. It is one of the Moselle-Franconian dialects spoken by the Rhineland Franks, who moved into the northwest corner of Gaul during the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) is descended from the language spoken by the Salian Franks, who crossed the lower Rhine into what is now Flanders at about the same time. The languages are not mutually com- prehensible, any more than Rumanian and Italian are.

Letzebuergesch has borrowed words and phrases from French and German over the centuries, but so has English, and no one expects the Germans and French to under- stand English. Letzebuergesch is, inciden- tally, a living language, unlike Welsh, Gael- ic and Cornish, which have had to be artifi- cially propped up to survive. Plays are still written in Letzebuergesch today, and films are being made, although the market for them outside Luxembourg is, understand- ably, small. The plateau of Kirchberg is not paved with concrete, but is a verdure-covered hill. The EU buildings are very attractive, and if the European Parliament and the Commis- sion do not choose to use them, it is their loss. One gathers that the night life in Strasbourg and Brussels is a little more attractive to the MEPs.

Mr Lockwood's last paragraph about Luxembourg and the Holy Roman Empire contained almost as many errors as the rest of his article put together. John the Blind, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, was never elected Holy Roman Emperor. The four Counts of Luxem- bourg who were elected emperors were Henry VII, Charles IV, Wenceslas IV and Sigismund. The first two were fairly good emperors, the latter two were not. Wenceslas IV was not a 'forebear' of `Good King Wenceslas', a member of a different family, which ruled Bohemia four centuries earlier.

I shan't comment on your correspon- dent's snide remarks about Gaston Thorn and Jacques Santer, Jacques Santer may disappoint his detractors. He is the head of a coalition that has governed Luxembourg for the past ten years and has just won its third national election. He is a pleasant, eloquent man who is likely to stir up less controversy than Jacques Delors, but may accomplish as much in the end.

Harty C. Barteau

Rue des Vergers 5 L-9188 Vichten, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg