Benelux Union (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)

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An arrangement for intergovernmental cooperation known as the Benelux Union was created in 1944. The names of the three member nations—Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg—are combined to form the abbreviation “Benelux”. The three main aspects of this tripartite union—which can be considered as the precursor to European integration—are the economics, sustainable development, and justice.

History
  • The histories of the three nations, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, are intertwined. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg served alongside the monarch of the Netherlands for more than fifty years. Following World War I, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Belgium established the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) through a customs and monetary agreement.
  • The governments of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—all still in exile in London—signed a customs union pact in 1944, during World War II. This customs union became operational on January 1st, 1948. It established a foreign trade tariff and exempted import taxes on goods traded within the union.
  • The Benelux Economic Union, established by the treaty of 3 February 1958 for a first term of 50 years, aimed to increase and strengthen economic cooperation between the three nations. Among the main goals were, in particular:
    • The coordination of economic, financial, and social policies;
    • The free flow of people, products, capital, and services;
    • and the common trade policy.

In 1960, the Benelux Treaty came into effect.

What about right now?

A new treaty revising the Treaty of 1958 for an arbitrary duration was signed on June 17, 2008, 50 years after the original treaty was signed and in anticipation of its expiration in 2010. According to this agreement, the three primary sectors of Benelux Union collaboration are as follows:

  • the domestic market and economic unity,
  • environmental protection,
  • justice, and home affairs.

Benelux has frequently been used as an example for strengthening European ties. In fact, several areas of cooperation have been so effective that they are now being used on a European scale. This is particularly true for the internal market (Economic Union), police cooperation, and free movement of people (Schengen Agreements).

Operation

The Benelux is run by a number of organizations:

  • The Benelux Council made up of high officials from the relevant national ministries, is in charge of putting together ministerial files;
  • The Committee of Ministers is the highest decision-making body that establishes the direction and priorities of the Union;
  • The Benelux Secretariat-General initiates, supports, and ensures cooperation in the areas of the economy, sustainability, and security;
Benelux institutions:

The Benelux Committee of Ministers, the Benelux Council, the Benelux Parliament, the Benelux Court of Justice, and the Benelux Secretariat General are the five Benelux institutions recognized by the 2008 treaty. In addition to these five organizations, a separate organization is the Benelux Organisation for Intellectual Property.

Ministerial Committee of Benelux:

The Benelux’s top decision-making body is the Committee of Ministers. It has at least one ministerial-level delegate from each of the three nations. Its makeup changes depending on its agenda. The directions and priorities of Benelux cooperation are decided by the ministers. Every year, the three nations alternate holding the Committee’s presidency.

Council of Benelux:

Senior officials from the pertinent ministries make up the council. Its makeup changes depending on its agenda. The preparation of the ministers’ dossiers is the council’s primary responsibility.

Benelux Inter Parliamentary Consultative Council:

  • In 1955, a body known as the “Interparliamentary Consultative Council”—officially known as the Benelux Parliament—was established. 49 members of the various national parliaments make up this parliamentary body: 21 from the Dutch parliament, 21 from the national and regional parliaments of Belgium, and 7 from the parliament of Luxembourg. They provide their respective governments with information and advice on all Benelux-related issues.
  • The Treaty of the Benelux Interparliamentary Assembly was signed in Brussels on January 20, 2015, by the governments of the three nations, as well as the local and regional administrations of Belgium. On August 1, 2019, this agreement becomes operative. The 1955 Convention on the Consultative Interparliamentary Council for the Benelux was replaced by this. The de facto name, Benelux Parliament, has been in use for a while now and has largely replaced the official name in everyday usage, both within the Benelux and in foreign references.

Benelux Court of Justice:

A global court is the Benelux Court of Justice. Its goal is to encourage consistency in the application of Benelux law. National courts are required to request an interpretive ruling from the Benelux Court when faced with difficulty interpreting a common Benelux legal rule. The Benelux Court then issues a binding decision. The judges of Belgium’s “Cour de cassation,” the Netherlands’ “Hoge Raad,” and Luxembourg’s “Cour de cassation” are chosen to serve as the Court’s members.

Benelux General Secretariat:

The General Secretariat, which has its headquarters in Brussels, serves as the Benelux Union’s framework for collaboration. It serves as the secretariat for the Council, the Committee of Ministers, and other working groups and commissions. The General Secretariat has years of experience in the field of Benelux cooperation and is knowledgeable about the differences and policy accords among the three nations. Building on what has previously been accomplished, the General Secretariat uses its contacts, expertise, and network to assist partners and other stakeholders who support its goal. It starts, encourages, and tracks the outcomes of cooperative efforts in the fields of economy, sustainability, and security.

A four-year shared work program with an annual plan is the foundation of Benelux’s cooperation.

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