The Benelux Union refers to the political, cultural, and economic union of three Western Europe states, namely Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The name Benelux is derived from the combination of the first two or three letters of the names of each of these constituent states. The Benelux Union is one of the oldest economic unions in the world. The union was established to promote cooperation and economic integration within the member states.
History of the Benelux Union
The union was established towards the end of the Second World War in September of 1944 at the London Customs Convention. The leaders of the three countries met in London and discussed their post-war economic strategy. Although the agreement for the union was signed in 1944, it did not take effect until 1948 when the countries’ economies stabilized from the consequences of war. It was initially referred to as the Benelux Customs Union. The member states agreed on lowering custom duties and import duties, eliminating import quotas, and easing other trade restrictions among the union members.
The Benelux Union's Role in the European Union
The Benelux Union was instrumental in the creation of the larger European Union. West Germany, Italy, and France joined the Benelux Union countries to form the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951. The union grew to become the European Economic Community and later the European Union. Since its establishment, the European Union took prominence over the Benelux union. However, the Benelux Union still holds significance for Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Composition of the Benelux Union
The Benelux Union is comprised by several institutions. They include the Benelux Parliament, the Secretariat-General, the Council of the Union, and the Committee of Ministers. The central administrative unit of the Benelux Union is the Secretariat-General which is located in Brussels. It holds the Committee of Ministers, various other committees, and the Council of Economic Union. The Benelux Parliament was established in 1955. It has 21 members from the Belgium parliament, 21 members of the Dutch Parliament and seven members of the Luxembourg parliament. The union entails inter-governmental cooperation among the three member states. The Benelux Union members have unified laws. The Union agreement calls for co-operation among Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg in economic, social and financial policies. In addition to the institutions of the Benelux Union, the three states share the Benelux Court of Justice located in Brussels and the Benelux Organization for Intellectual Property located in The Hague. The Benelux Court of Justice gets its judges from the highest courts in Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Belgium. The court guarantees consistent interpretation of the universal laws of the member states. The Benelux Organization for Intellectual Property was created in 2005, and it is the official institution that registers designs and trademarks for the Benelux countries.
The Benelux Union is a vital union between its member states, as well as for the European continent as a whole. It played a key role in rebuilding the economies of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg after the Second World War. It also provided a blueprint for other economic unions to learn from including the European Union. The Union’s success can be attributed to the joint effort among the three member states.