Table of Contents
Table of Contents
List of abbreviations
1. Historic Overview
Catholicism - Protestantism
War and Independence
War and Peace
Loss of territory – Gain of independence
Simplified Abstract of Benelux History
2. Benelux Cooperation
Ideas to establish a free trading area
Belgium-Luxemburg Economic Union (BLEU)
Oslo and Ouchy
Benelux Customs Union
The name “Benelux”
Benelux Economic Union Treaty
3. Two streams of cooperation
Benelux Economic Union (BEU)
Organization of the
1. Committee of Ministers
2. Committees, Special Committees and working groups
3. Council of the Economic Union
5. Common Services
6. Benelux Parliament
7. Economic and Social Advisory Council
8. College of Arbitrators
9. Benelux Court of Justice
Benelux cooperation evolving out of the BEU framework
Euro Contrôle Route (ECR)
Convention on Intellectual Property
Overview of significant Benelux cooperation
Benelux Political Cooperation (BPC)
4. SWOT Analysis
Engine for European integration
Benelux added value
Caducity of exclusive Benelux tasks
Visibility of cooperation
Predictability of cooperation
Bundling of energies
5. Benelux cooperation beyond 2010
The topicality of the Benelux issue
Future core activities
Five steps to tune the Benelux Truck
Add more axles
6. Closing Words
Interviews and personal conversations
With the enactment of the Pragmatic Sanction in 1549, Charles V established the 17 provinces in the Low Countries and declared them as inseparable. While the 7 protestant provinces in the North declared their independence and formed the Union of Utrecht during the Eighty Years’ War, the 10 catholic provinces in the South remained in the hands of the Spanish rulers. During the French revolutionary wars, the entire region was invaded by Napoleon’s troops, but after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the Low Countries were united again under William I of Orange, who from then on ruled over the newly-formed Kingdom of the Netherlands. At the same time, the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg became independent but was practically closely linked to the Netherlands. The Belgians revolted against the Dutch sovereign in 1830 and inaugurated their own king in 1831. Eight years later, William I of Orange finally accepted Belgium’s independence while Luxemburg remained in a personal union with the Netherlands until 1890.
Twice bound together (under Charles V and later under William I of Orange), the Benelux were mainly concerned with their economies in the 19th century. National interests prevailed and the three countries did not make real progress towards an enhanced economic cooperation. After WW I, Belgium and Luxemburg established the Belgium-Luxemburg Economic Union (BLEU), which also included a monetary union. In the interwar period, the Benelux signed two conventions (Oslo and Ouchy) that leveled the road for enhanced economic cooperation by means of common tariffs. During WW II, the governments in exile subscribed a monetary agreement that set an exchange rate between their currencies. As cooperation between the countries increased, the three countries became known as the Benelux. Then in 1948, the concluded Benelux Customs Union entered into force. Ten years later, in 1958, the Benelux signed the treaty establishing a Benelux economic union (BEU), which provided the basis for the free movement of people, goods, capital, and services in the Benelux area. Both cooperation forms, the BLEU and the BEU found their expression in art. 233 of the EEC-Treaty.
Today’s Benelux organization is based on five legal documents that include the agreement to establish the Benelux Parliament, art. 233 of the EEC-Treaty, the BEU-Treaty, the treaty establishing the Benelux Court of Justice, and the Convention establishing the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property. The initial objective of the Benelux: to create closer economic cooperation was soon extended to other areas. Consequently, the Benelux took over a laboratory function in many domains and provided other countries with valuable experience and knowledge. Cooperation examples that evolved out of the BEU framework are Schengen, Senningen, Euro Contrôle Route, and the Convention on Intellectual Property. Besides the practical results of their cooperation, the Benelux countries also started to politically cooperate on the European level. Their memoranda and joint position papers frequently served as a good basis for further discussion on European issues and were commonly mirrored in the European acquis communautaire. While economic cooperation is defined by means of the BEU-Treaty, Benelux political cooperation (BPC) takes place on an ad-hoc basis during informal meetings and is not institutionalized.
In order to familiarize with the Benelux organization, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) takes a closer look at the cooperation. The strengths of the Benelux are the positive image they have due to their achievements: the fact that they served as an engine for European integration, their added value, as well as the Benelux Secretariat-General in Brussels that acts as a knowledge hub for various Benelux projects. Negative points can be found in the caducity of exclusive Benelux domains that were gradually taken over by the European Union, the lack of Benelux visibility and the little predictability of the BPC. Besides the positive and negative aspects, the Benelux also have several opportunities in the future. They have the potential to serve as a laboratory for new European policies, to extend their cooperation to other entities, and to increase their political weight by bundling their energies on the international stage. Against the background of the SWOT analysis, differences between the North and the South certainly play a role but do not necessarily impede Benelux cooperation.
The expiration of the BEU-Treaty in 2010 puts the Benelux at crossroads and the three countries have to come to grips with the question of a new legal framework for their cooperation. Here, numerous aspects have to be kept in mind: the modified setup of the Belgian state, the speed of European integration, the future role of the Benelux including its core domains of cooperation, enhanced BPC, etc. In 1994, the Dutch foreign minister, Pieter Kooijmans, once said that ”the train of the European Union has taken over the truck of the Benelux” meaning that many initial Benelux domains have been exported to the European level. Back then, new areas of cooperation were explored that put the Benelux in a precursory role again. Today, one might get the impression that the EU-train is the only vehicle in motion and that the Benelux truck moves out of sight. This is only partly true, therefore, the Benelux have to create a new drive to take over the role they had in the early years of European integration. Therefore, five steps are necessary to tune the Benelux truck in order to ensure its outrider role. They include body tuning (new legal framework), new lacquering (visibility), GPS (political steering), additional axles (Benelux Plus) and most importantly engine tuning (core areas of cooperation). Two studies that have been made for the Flemish and the Dutch government should help the Benelux to find a position for the upcoming Benelux deliberations and reflection on a new legal framework.
Durch den Erlass der Pragmatischen Sanktionen im Jahr 1549, errichtete Kaiser Karl V die 17 Provinzen der Niederlande und erklärte diese als unzertrennbar. Während des Achtzigjährigen Kriegs gründeten die 7 protestantischen Provinzen im Norden die Utrechter Union und wurden unabhängig, während die 10 katholischen Provinzen im Süden in den Händen der spanischen Herrscher verblieben. Im Laufe der französischen Revolutionskriege besetzten Napoleons Truppen die ganze Region, die jedoch nach seiner Niederlage bei Waterloo im Jahr 1815 unter Wilhelm I von Oranien zu einem neuen Königreich der Niederlande zusammengeschlossen wurde. Gleichzeitung wurde das Großherzogtum Luxemburg unabhängig, praktisch war es aber an die Niederlande gebunden. Die belgische Bevölkerung rebellierte gegen die niederländische Herrschaft im Jahr 1830 und ernannte im Jahr 1831 seinen eigenen König. Acht Jahre später, akzeptierte Wilhelm I von Oranien letztendlich Belgiens Unabhängigkeit, während Luxemburg weiterhin bis 1890 in enger Bindung mit den Niederlanden verblieb.
Zweimal vereint (unter Karl V und später unter Wilhelm I von Oranien), waren die Benelux im 19. Jh. hauptsächlich mit dem Aufbau ihrer Wirtschaft beschäftigt. Nationale Interessen standen im Vordergrund und auf dem Gebiet einer vertiefenden wirtschaftlichen Zusammenarbeit wurden wenige Fortschritte gemacht. Nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg gründeten Belgien und Luxemburg die Belgisch-Luxemburgische Wirtschaftsunion (BLWU), welche auch eine Währungsunion beinhaltete. In der Zwischenkriegszeit unterzeichneten die Benelux zwei Übereinkommen (Oslo und Ouchy) welche durch eine gemeinsame Zollpolitik den Weg zur gesteigerten wirtschaftlichen Kooperation ebneten. Während des Zweiten Weltkrieges unterschrieben die Exil-Regierungen ein Währungsabkommen, welches den Wechselkurs zwischen ihren Währungen festlegte. Die Zusammenarbeit nahm zu, der Kooperationsverband wurde als Benelux bekannt und im Jahr 1948 trat die beschlossene Benelux Zollunion in Kraft. Zehn Jahre später, im Jahr 1958 wurde der Benelux Vertrag über die Gründung einer gemeinsamen Wirtschaftsunion (BWU) geschlossen, welcher als Grundlage für den freien Personen-, Güter-, Kapital- und Dienstleistungsverkehr diente. Beide Zusammenarbeitsformen, die BLWU und die BWU fanden ihren Widerklang in Art. 233 des EG-Vertrages.
Die heutige Benelux Organisation basiert auf fünf Rechtsdokumenten, welche das Übereinkommen zur Errichtung eines Benelux Parlaments, den Art. 233 EG-Vertrag, den Vertrag der BWU, den Vertrag über die Errichtung eines Benelux Gerichtshofes, sowie den Vertrag über die Errichtung einer Benelux Organisation für Geistiges Eigentum beinhalten. Das ursprüngliche Ziel, nämlich wirtschaftlich enger zusammenzuarbeiten, wurde bald auf anderen Domänen erweitert. Folglich übernahmen die Benelux in vielen Bereichen eine Art Laborfunktion und stellten somit anderen Ländern wertvolle Erfahrung und Wissen bereit. Zusammenarbeitsbeispiele, die dem BWU-Rahmen entsprangen, sind Schengen, Senningen, Euro Contrôle Route und der Vertrag über geistiges Eigentum. Neben praktischen Ergebnissen aufgrund der Kooperation begonnen die Benelux auf Europa-Niveau auch politisch zusammenzuarbeiten. Deren Memoranda und Positionspapiere waren oft eine Grundlage für weitere Diskussionen über Europathemen und fanden häufig ihren Widerklang im europäischen acquis communautaire. Während die wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit aufgrund des BWU-Vertrages definiert wurde, findet die politische Zusammenarbeit auf Ad-hoc-Basis bei informellen Treffen statt und ist nicht institutionalisiert.
Um sich mit der Benelux Organisation vertraut zu machen wird diese mit Hilfe einer Stärken/Schwächen-Analyse genauer untersucht. Die Stärken der Benelux sind die positive Reputation ihrer Zusammenarbeit, deren Funktion als Motor für die europäische Integration, ihr Mehrwert, sowie das Benelux Generalsekretariat in Brüssel, welches als Drehscheibe bei verschiedenen Benelux-Projekten zur Seite steht. Negative Aspekte können in der Vergänglichkeit der ursprünglich exklusiven Kooperationsbereiche der Benelux gesehen werden, die mehr und mehr durch die EU übernommen wurden. Weitere Mankos sind die schlechte Sichtbarkeit und Vorhersehbarkeit der Benelux Zusammenarbeit. Neben den Stärken und Schwächen, haben die Benelux mehrere Möglichkeiten um aus ihrer Kooperation zusätzliches Kapital schlagen zu können. Sie haben das Potential als Labor für neue EU-Initiativen tätig zu werden, ihre Zusammenarbeit mit anderen Entitäten im Rahmen der Benelux Plus auszubauen sowie ihre Energien auf internationalem Niveau zu bündeln und somit ihr politischen Gewicht erhöhen. Im Hintergrund der Stärken/Schwächen Analyse spielen auch die Nord-Süd Unterschiede eine Rolle, jedoch wird dadurch die Benelux Zusammenarbeit nicht unbedingt behindert.
Mit dem Auslaufen des BWU-Vertrages im Jahr 2010 befinden sich die Benelux nun am Scheideweg und müssen sich mit der Frage auseinandersetzen, wie sie die zukünftigen legalen Rahmenbedingungen für ihre Zusammenarbeit gestalten wollen. Mehrere Punkte sind hier wesentlich: die veränderte Staatsform Belgiens, die Geschwindigkeit der europäischen Integration, die zukünftige Rolle der Benelux, deren Kernbereiche ihrer Zusammenarbeit, verstärkte politische Zusammenarbeit, etc. Der niederländische Außenminister Pieter Kooijmans bemerkte im Jahr 1994, dass „der Zug der Europäischen Union den LKW der Benelux eingeholt habe“, und meinte dass mittlerweile viele ursprüngliche Benelux Domänen auf Europaniveau exportiert wurden. Damals fanden die Länder neue Kooperationsbereiche welche den Benelux wieder eine Vorreiterrolle zukommen lies. Heute könnte man den Eindruck bekommen, dass der EU-Zug das einzige sich bewegende Fahrzeug ist und der Benelux LKW langsam aus dem Blickfeld verschwindet. Dies stimmt zum Teil, deshalb müssen die Benelux neuen Antrieb finden um die Funktion, die sie in den frühen Jahren europäischer Integration ausübten, erneut zu übernehmen. Aus diesem Grunde ist es notwendig, den Benelux LKW in fünf Schritten zu frisieren um seine Vorreiterrolle zu sichern. Dies beinhaltet eine neue Karosserie (neue legale Rahmenbedingung), eine neue Lackierung (Sichtbarkeit), GPS (politische Führung), zusätzliche Achsen (Benelux Plus) und das wichtige Motor-Tuning (Kernbereiche der Kooperation). Zwei Studien, welche für die flämische und die niederländische Regierung gemacht wurden, sollten den Benelux-Ländern helfen, deren Position für die kommende Verhandlungs- und Reflektionsphase über eine neue legale Rahmenbedingung zu finden.
Par le décret de la Pragmatique Sanction en 1549, Charles V avait établi les 17 provinces dans les Pays-Bas et les avait déclarées inséparables. Alors que les 7 provinces protestantes du Nord déclaraient leur indépendance et formaient l’Union d’Utrecht au cours de la Guerre de Quatre-Vingts Ans, les 10 provinces catholiques du sud restaient aux mains des dirigeants espagnols. Pendant les guerres révolutionnaires françaises, la région toute entière fut envahie par les troupes de Napoléon mais après la défaite de ce dernier à Waterloo en 1815, les Pays-Bas furent réunis sous Guillaume 1er d’Orange qui régna à partir d’alors sur le Royaume des Pays-Bas nouvellement formé. Au même moment, le Grand Duché de Luxembourg prit son indépendance mais il restait en pratique étroitement lié aux Pays-Bas. En 1830, les Belges se révoltèrent contre le souverain hollandais et intronisèrent leur propre roi en 1831. Huit ans plus tard, Guillaume 1er d’Orange accepta finalement l’indépendance de la Belgique tandis que le Luxembourg entretint une union personnelle avec les Pays-Bas jusqu’en 1890.
C’est surtout son économie au cours du 19ème siècle qui posa problème au Benelux, réuni deux fois (sous Charles V et plus tard sous Guillaume 1er d’Orange). Les intérêts nationaux prévalaient et les trois pays ne faisaient pas de progrès réel dans le sens d’un renforcement de leur coopération économique. Après la Première Guerre Mondiale, la Belgique et le Luxembourg établirent l’Union économique belgo-luxembourgeoise (UEBL) qui comprenait également une union monétaire. Au cours de la période d’entre-guerre, le Benelux signa deux conventions (Oslo et Ouchy) qui préparèrent la route vers une coopération économique accrue par l’application de droits de douane communs. Pendant la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale, les gouvernements en exil signèrent un accord monétaire qui fixait un taux de change entre leurs devises. La coopération entre les pays s’intensifia, les trois pays se donnèrent le nom de Benelux et en 1948 l’Union douanière Benelux entra en vigueur. Dix ans plus tard, en 1958, le Benelux signa le traité établissant une Union économique Benelux (UEB), qui posa les fondations pour la libre circulation des personnes, des marchandises, du capital et des services dans la zone Benelux. Les deux formes de coopération, l’UEBL et l’UEB trouvèrent leur expression dans l’article 233 du Traité de l’Union Économique Européenne.
L’organisation actuelle du Benelux est basée sur cinq documents légaux qui se composent de la convention instituant un Parlement Benelux, art. 233 du Traité de l’Union Economique Européenne, le Traité UEB, le traité établissant la Cour de Justice du Benelux et la Convention Benelux en matière de propriété intellectuelle. L’objectif initial du Benelux, notamment une coopération économique plus rapprochée s’étendit bientôt à d’autres domaines. Suite à cela, le Benelux reprit une fonction de laboratoire dans de nombreux domaines et fit profiter d’autres pays d’une expérience et de connaissances considérables. Citons des exemples de coopération qui se développèrent à partir du contexte UEB: Schengen, Senningen, Euro Route Contrôle et la Convention sur la Propriété intellectuelle. A côté des résultats pratiques de leur coopération, les pays Benelux se mirent également à coopérer sur le plan européen. Leurs memoranda et rapports de position conjoints servirent souvent de base solide aux discussions futures concernant des sujets européens et se reflétèrent en général dans l’acquis communautaire européen. Alors que la coopération économique est définie au moyen du Traité UEB, la coopération politique Benelux (CPB) se situe sur une base ad-hoc au cours de rencontres informelles et n’est pas institutionnalisée.
Afin de se familiariser avec l’organisation Benelux, une analyse «SWOT» (forces et faiblesses) examine la coopération de plus près. Les forces du Benelux sont l’image positive qu’il a vis-à-vis de ses réalisations, le fait qu’il serve de moteur à l’intégration européenne, sa valeur ajoutée de même que le Secrétariat du Benelux à Bruxelles qui agit comme un piston de connaissances pour divers projets Benelux. On peut trouver des points négatifs dans la précarité de domaines exclusivement Benelux qui ont été repris peu à peu par l’Union Européenne, le manque de visibilité du Benelux et le caractère imprévisible de la CPB (coopération politique Benelux). A côté des aspects positifs et négatifs, le Benelux a également plusieurs chances dans l’avenir. Il a le potentiel de servir de laboratoire pour développer de nouvelles politiques européennes, d’étendre sa coopération à d’autres entités et d’augmenter son poids politique en alliant ses énergies sur la scène internationale. Vue sur l’arrière-plan de l’analyse «SWOT» les différences entre le Nord et le Sud jouent certainement un rôle mais n’empêchent pas nécessairement la coopération Benelux.
A l’’expiration du Traité UEB en 2010, le Benelux se trouvera a un croisement des chemins et les trois pays devront s’attaquer à la question d’un nouveau cadre légal pour leur coopération. Ici, il faut tenir compte de nombreux aspects: la nouvelle composition de l’Etat belge, la vitesse de l’intégration européenne, le rôle futur du Benelux y compris ses domaines noyau en matière de coopération, une coopération politique Benelux accrue, etc. En 1994, le Ministre des Affaires étrangères hollandais, Pieter Kooijmans avait déclaré que « le train de l’Union Européenne avait rattrapé le camion du Benelux »ce qui signifie que de nombreux domaines initialement Benelux avaient été exportés au niveau européen. A ce moment là, de nouvelles zones de coopération furent explorées qui donnèrent au Benelux à nouveau un rôle de précurseur. Aujourd’hui, on pourrait avoir l’impression que le train de l’Union Européenne est le seul véhicule qui soit en mouvement et que le camion du Benelux est en train de disparaître de notre vue. Ceci n’est que partiellement vrai. Néanmoins le Benelux doit se remettre en route pour reprendre le rôle qu’il avait au cours des premières années de l’intégration européenne. C’est la raison pour laquelle il y a cinq mesures nécessaires au réglage du camion Benelux en vue d’assurer son rôle de précurseur. Elles impliquent un réglage de la carrosserie (nouveau cadre légal), une nouvelle peinture (visibilité), GPS (direction politique), des axes supplémentaires (Benelux Plus) et le plus important un réglage de moteur (zones noyau de la coopération). Deux études qui ont été réalisées pour le gouvernement flamand et néerlandais devraient l’aider à trouver une position pour les futures délibérations Benelux et une réflexion quant à un nouveau contexte légal.
Met de uitvaardiging van de Pragmatische Sancties in 1549 richtte Karel V de 17 provincies op in de Lage Landen en verklaarde deze onscheidbaar. Terwijl de 7 protestantse provincies in het Noorden hun onafhankelijkheid verklaarden en tijdens de Tachtigjarige Oorlog de Unie van Utrecht vormden, bleven de 10 katholieke provincies in het Zuiden in de handen van de Spaanse heersers. Bij de Franse revolutionaire oorlogen, was het volledige gebied bezet door de troepen van Napoleon, maar na zijn nederlaag bij Waterloo in 1815, werden de Lage Landen onder Willem I van Oranje herenigd tot een nieuwe Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Tezelfdertijd werd het Groothertogdom Luxemburg onafhankelijk maar was praktisch nauw verbonden met Nederland. De Belgische bevolking kwam in opstand tegen het Nederlandse bewind in 1830 en benoemde hun eigen koning in 1831. Acht jaar later keurde Willem I van Oranje definitief de onafhankelijkheid van België goed terwijl Luxemburg tot 1890 in een persoonlijke unie met Nederland bleef.
Tweemaal verenigd (onder Karel V en later onder Willem I van Oranje), waren de Benelux in de 19de eeuw hoofdzakelijk bezig met de opbouw van hun economie. De nationale belangen stonden op de voorgrond en de drie landen boekten weinig vooruitgang tot een engere economische samenwerking. Na de Eerste Wereldoorlog stichtten België en Luxemburg de Belgisch Luxemburgse Economische Unie (BLEU), die ook een monetaire unie omvatte. Tijdens de tussen-oorlogse periode, ondertekenden de Benelux twee overeenkomsten (Oslo en Ouchy) die de weg voor nauwere economische samenwerking klaarmaakten door middel van gemeenschappelijke tarieven. Tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog, tekenden de regeringen in ballingschap een monetaire overeenkomst dat de wisselkoers tussen hun munteenheden bepaalde. Aangezien de samenwerking tussen de landen toenam, werden de drie landen Benelux genoemd. Dan, in 1948, trad de Benelux Douane-Unie in werking. Tien later jaar, in 1958, ondertekenden de Benelux het verdrag tot oprichting van een Benelux Economische Unie (BEU), die de basis vormde voor het vrije verkeer van personen, goederen, kapitaal, en de diensten in het gebied van de Benelux. Beide samenwerkingsvormen, zowel de BLEU als de BEU, vonden hun bevestiging in art. 233 van het EEG-Verdrag.
De hedendaagse Benelux-organisatie is gebaseerd op vijf wettelijke documenten zijnde de overeenkomst over de oprichting van een Benelux Parlement, het art. 233 van het EEG-Verdrag, het BEU-Verdrag, het verdrag over de oprichting van het Benelux Gerechtshof en de overeenkomst over de oprichting van het Benelux-Bureau voor Intellectueel Eigendom. De aanvankelijke doelstelling van de Benelux, namelijk nauwer samenwerken op economisch niveau, wordt spoedig uitgebreid tot andere domeinen. Bijgevolg vervulde de Benelux een soort laboratoriumfunctie op veel gebieden en gaven waardevolle ervaring en kennis aan andere landen. Voorbeelden van de samenwerking die evolueerden in het kader van de BEU zijn Schengen, Senningen, Euro Contrôle Route en de Overeenkomst over de Intellectuele Eigendom. Naast de praktische resultaten van hun samenwerking, begonnen de Benelux landen ook op Europees niveau politiek samen te werken. Hun mededelingen en gemeenschappelijke standpuntdocumenten die vaak een goede basis vormden voor verdere besprekingen over Europese kwesties, werden vaak weerspiegeld in het Europese acquis communautaire. Terwijl de economische samenwerking door middel van het BEU-Verdrag wordt bepaald, gebeurt de Benelux politieke samenwerking (BPS) op een ad-hoc basis tijdens informele vergaderingen en is niet geïnstitutionaliseerd.
Om vertrouwd te worden met de Benelux-organisatie, wordt deze met behulp van een SWOT-analyse (sterktes en zwaktes) nauwkeuriger onderzocht. De sterke punten van de Benelux zijn het positieve beeld van de samenwerking, het feit als motor voor de Europese integratie fungeert te hebben, de meerwaarde, evenals het Benelux Secretariaat-Generaal in Brussel, dat een kennis-hub voor diverse Benelux projecten is. Negatieve aspecten kunnen gevonden worden in de vergankelijkheid van de aanvankelijk exclusieve samenwerkingsdomeinen van de Benelux die geleidelijk wordt overgenomen door de Europese Unie. Verdere gebreken zijn de slechte zichtbaarheid van de Benelux en de moeilijke voorspelbaarheid van de BPS. Naast de positieve en negatieve aspecten, hebben de Benelux ook verschillende mogelijkheden om munt te slaan uit hun coöperatie. Zij hebben het potentieel om als laboratorium te werken aan nieuwe Europese initiatieven, om hun samenwerking met andere entiteiten uit te breiden en hun politiek gewicht te verhogen door het bundelen van hun energieën op internationaal niveau. Tegen de achtergrond van de SWOT-analyse, spelen de verschillen tussen het Noorden en het Zuiden ook een rol, maar belemmeren daardoor niet echt de samenwerking van de Benelux.
Met het einde van het BEU-Verdrag in 2010 staat de Benelux op een kruispunt en de drie landen moeten nu discussiëren over de kwestie van een nieuw juridisch kader voor hun samenwerking. Hierbij moet rekening gehouden worden met talrijke aspecten: de gewijzigde opstelling van de Belgische staat, de snelheid van de Europese integratie, de toekomstige rol van de Benelux met inbegrip van hun kerndomeinen van samenwerking, de verbeterde BPS, enz. De Nederlandse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, Pieter Kooijmans, zei in 1994 dat de "trein van de Europese Unie de vrachtwagen van de Benelux heeft ingehaald", en bedoelde dat veel oorspronkelijke Benelux-domeinen tegenwoordig op Europees niveau worden uitgevoerd. Destijds werden nieuwe samenwerkingsgebieden onderzocht die de Benelux opnieuw in een voortrekkers rol hebben gezet. Vandaag bestaat er de indruk dat de EU-trein het enige voertuig in beweging is en dat de Benelux vrachtwagen geleidelijk uit het zicht verdwijnt. Dit is slechts gedeeltelijk waar, daarom moeten de Benelux een nieuwe aandrijving tot stand brengen om de rol over te nemen die ze in de vroege jaren van Europese integratie hebben gehad. Uiteindelijk zijn daarvoor vijf stappen noodzakelijk om de Benelux-vrachtwagen te tunen en om zijn voortrekkers rol te verzekeren. Dit omvat een nieuwe carrosserie (nieuw juridisch kader), nieuwe verf (zichtbaarheid), GPS (politieke leiding), extra assen (Benelux plus) en vooral een tuning van de motor (kerngebieden van samenwerking). Twee studies die werden gemaakt voor de Vlaamse en Nederlandse overheid moeten helpen om een positie te vinden voor een nieuw juridisch kader tijdens de aanstaande periode van discussie en bezinning.
In 2006, the three countries of the Benelux ranked number four right after Germany, the USA and China in exports. The abbreviation of the first letters of the countries has become to a trademark and is widely used to refer to the area of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg and no one can deny that these three countries have played an important role in the European integration process. These three factors alone, make it worth having a closer look into the cooperation of the three countries. Admitting that I did not know a lot about the Benelux organization, I was offered the possibility to write my thesis on the current and future Benelux cooperation while doing an internship at the Austrian embassy in Brussels. During my research, I got the possibility to attend the Benelux seminar on “The future of the Benelux cooperation in a changing Europe” in February 2007 and wrote its executive summary. By means of literature review and interviews with key figures, I slowly dived into the subject and learned about the Benelux’s achievements, drawbacks, challenges, and opportunities for the times to come. It turned out to be an exciting topic with a lot of potential for the citizens of the Benelux and – as one will notice after having read the paper - for the citizens of Europe.
I would like to thank the Austrian embassy for the opportunity to work in a diplomatic mission and the entire staff for the valuable experience and friendliness. Special thanks go to my direct supervisor, deputy chief of mission, Gerhard Maynhardt, who provided me with helpful inputs for this thesis and encouraged me to write on this topic. I would also like to thank the director of the Pierre Werner Institute in Luxemburg, Mario Hirsch, who invited me to participate in the Benelux seminar and write the executive summary. Finally, thank you to all persons who contributed a great deal to this work by giving me the possibility to speak with them personally.
List of abbreviations
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In 1958, the three countries of the Benelux signed a treaty that established the Benelux Economic Union (BEU). The majority of the Benelux citizens and the European population, however, is not conscious about an existing Benelux Economic Union and the associated contract, yet the term Benelux is associated with cooperation among the three countries of Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands and has developed into a strong figure. Due to economical and political changes in Europe, evidence suggests that the initial drive of the Benelux has faded and that it has became quieter around the troika of the Benelux. Nevertheless, Benelux cooperation has recently become a debated issue again because of the following reasons:
Firstly, the treaty of the BEU will expire on 31 October 2010 in accordance with art. 99 (1). Since the present treaty became the basis of Benelux cooperation, the question arises, what steps the three countries will set regarding the termination of the contract. Art. 99 (2) refers to a tacit extension of 10 years if no high party notifies their intentions to end the treaty until 31 October 2009. All high parties have announced to continue with Benelux cooperation, meaning they will need to find a new legal framework for the future.
Secondly, since the Benelux contract was concluded in 1958, the structure of the Belgian state considerably changed: In 1970, Belgium was constitutionally divided into four language areas (Dutch language area, French language area, Brussels as bilingual Dutch-French language area and German language area) and three regions (Region Flanders, Region Brussels and Region Wallonia). With the constitutional amendment of 1980, a further step towards a federal state was set by transferring central power to the regions and language areas. With a new reform in 1988, authority of the regions and communities was expanded and the Region Brussels was renamed into Region Brussels-Capital. The process that was introduced in 1970 was terminated in 1993 when Belgium officially became a federal state. Art. 1 of the constitution reads:
Belgium is a Federal State made up of communities and regions.
The Lambermont and the Lombard agreement of 2001 introduced the fifth state reform. Due to the state reforms the regions and communities of Belgium have both exclusive and mixed competencies. Furthermore, they may independently sign bilateral contracts within the limits of their autonomy. Hence, to give consideration to Belgium’s new setup, the form of future Benelux cooperation needs to be revised accordingly.
A third point refers to certain areas of the Benelux cooperation that have in the meantime become obsolete. Many (mainly economic) cooperation fields, where the Benelux had played a forerunner role for European integration, were replaced by initiatives from the European Union. Regardless of the areas that have been taken over by the European Union, there are still potential areas in which the Benelux could intensify their cooperation and thus serve as a laboratory for Europe. Additionally, cooperation between the three countries has shifted from initial economic cooperation to political cooperation prior to EU summits, as well as to cooperation in judicial and police affairs. Hence, due to the incorporation of many former Benelux areas into the European acquis communautaire and newly developed fields of cooperation, a reorganization of the Benelux organization is necessary.
1. Historic Overview
The history of the so called Low Countries traces back to 400,000 BC, when Neanderthals settled at the edge of the Meuse River. First signs of a society, however, can be found in Julius Cesar’s chronicle “De Bello Gallico” in which he described the inhabitants of this area as Belgae and as “the bravest of all Gauls”. (Caesar, 1929, p.16) During the period of the Romans; Belgium, Luxemburg and parts of today’s Netherlands belonged to the Roman Empire. After initial attempts to take over the northern part of the Low Countries, the Romans drew back their troops and considered the Rhine River as the natural border to the uncivilized North. Forts were constructed and the Limes came into existence. (Nijhoffs Geschiedenis-Lexicon, 1983, p.390)
The following hundreds of years were marked with the reign of the Franks, which became a major force in the Low Countries. Subsequently the Low Countries were part of the German-ruled Holy Roman Empire and later placed under Burgundian rule. In the 15th century, the Low Countries served as a battlefield for European monarchs who tried to increase their influence by extending their territory by means of negotiation, marriage and war.
Catholicism - Protestantism
One century later, in the beginning of the 16th century, Charles V became King of Spain (1515) and inherited Burgundy, Spain, the Low Countries, parts of Sicily, Spanish colonies in America and the Austrian Empire. In 1521, the Habsburg dynasty split into the Spanish and Austrian branch and throughout the following years, Charles V established 17 provinces in the Low Countries and declared them as inseparable (Pragmatic Sanction of 1549).
He ignored the 'Great Privilege' which gave the provinces greater political freedom (an enactment of his grandmother Mary of Burgundy in 1477) and pursued a centralist policy. Furthermore, he tried to pursue religious reformers and reigned with an iron fist opposing protestant movements. These movements grew popular and the catholic emperor feared its increasing influence in his empire. That was why he initiated the persecution against Protestants which was upheld by his son Philip II, who above all also wanted to introduce Spanish as the official language within the provinces of the Low Countries (Duquène, 2002). When Philip II returned to Spain, he appointed his half-sister Margaret of Parma as his governor-general to govern the provinces.
In the following years, social disturbances became more evident as Protestants suffered from persecution and the population was confronted with high grain prices. Three petitions under the initiation of William of Orange, stadholder of four provinces, to grant more religious freedom and to hand over the government to the nobles did not find an open ear with Margaret. Riots broke out and catholic churches, which represented constriction and inquisition, were destroyed. As a result, Philip II sent a large army to the 17 provinces of the Low Countries, which was lead by Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva. With the help of the Duke, Philip II wanted to convert the North to Catholicism and gain back control over an area that was prosperous and wealthy.
War and Independence
Despite his tries to beat down the revolutionaries and some minor successes, a war between Spain and the provinces broke out in the years between 1566 and 1572, which became known as the Eighty Years’ War and was led by William of Orange. Doing so, William remained convinced that “the revolt was directed not against the king but against the tyranny of his representative, Alva.” (Dutch History, 2007) This period of fighting resulted in the declaration of independence of the 7 protestant provinces in the North in 1579 (Union of Utrecht) whereas the 10 catholic provinces in the South remained in the hands of the Spanish crown.
At this point, the history of Belgium and the Netherlands continues on different paths and will be briefly sketched out in the following paragraphs.
For most of the 17th century, Belgium was governed by the Spanish crown. In 1596, the archduke of Austria, Albert VII and his wife Isabelle (the daughter of Philip II) governed it for 25 years. During that time, they tried to forcefully unite the northern and the southern provinces again that separated in 1579. Later, as a consequence of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-14), the new King of Spain, Philip V, ceded the Southern (Spanish) Netherlands to Austria. (Treaty of Utrecht 1713). This area roughly included today’s Belgium and Luxemburg and by placing the area under Austrian control, the powers wanted to prevent French domination in that region. The 10 Provinces were governed by Austrian delegates, who wanted to undertake new reforms and change the administration of the state and the church. The population though had little confidence in Austria’s reformation plans and when the revolution started in France, acquiescence of the Austrian rulers in the Low Countries faded. They rebelled and the States-General expelled Austrian bureaucrats and deposed the Austrian crown as its ruler. At the same time, other revolts took place in Italy and Hungary, where local rulers where opposed to the policies of Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II, who’s goals were inter alia to introduce German as the official language and reform fiscal policies. (Blumberg, 1982, p.37). Hendrik Van der Noot, a revolutionary, formed a little army and beat the Austrians in the Battle of Turnhout in October 1789. The first province declared its independence from the Austrian rule and other provinces subsequently followed suit. Following these events, the representatives of the 10 provinces signed a pact to establish the United States of Belgium in 1790 but due to a lack of leadership, the situation soon became out of hand and resulted in anarchy. (Ligue des Familles, 2006, p.7). After the death of Joseph II, his successor Leopold V soon reclaimed control over the provinces and re-established order. This revolution of the Southern Netherlands against the Austrian Emperor can be interpreted as the first gasps to inhale the air of independence.
During the French revolutionary wars after 1789, France invaded the entire region (Austrian provinces and the Bishopric of Liège) and occupied them. The ten provinces adopted the name Belgian Provinces. (AEIOU Culture Information System, 2006) Later, Napoleon defeated the Austrian army in the first Italian campaign which resulted in the peace treaty of Campo Formio, Italy (1797). There, the loss of the 10 Austrian provinces was confirmed and Belgium officially became part of France.
Despite Napoleon’s initial victories across Europe, he was defeated at Waterloo in 1815 and during the Congress of Vienna the major European powers agreed to use Belgium as a buffer state against future French invasion. Plans to unite the entire 17 provinces again were made and Austria abdicated its possessions in the Low Countries. In turn, it received Venetia and Lombardy. (Orgovanyi-Hanstein, 2005, p.38) Subsequently, the southern provinces and the Bishopric of Liège (except for a small part which was turned into the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg due to claims of Prussia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands) were given to the Dutch protestant King William I of Orange, who named his territory the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
After the Congress of Vienna, the provinces did not come to rest and William I’s counter-persecution of Catholics and the suppression of the French-speaking communities led to another revolution in 1830. The 10 Belgian provinces broke free from the Netherlands and a provisional government was established. This government was acquiesced by all major European powers but the Netherlands. One started to draft a legal framework, which enabled a Belgian king to rule according to the competencies given to him by a progressive constitution. Interestingly, the new national congress voted for the son of the French King Louis-Philip to be the new Belgium king, but fear of provoking the other major European powers made him decline that offer (Ligue des Familles, 2006, p.7). The German Leopold of Saxe-Coburg was the second choice and took oath to rule over Belgium on 21 July 1831. A few months later, a treaty was signed in London and Belgium’s independence was accepted by the European powers. The Kingdom of the Netherlands fought for another 8 years to avoid Belgium’s independence but encountered the French army, which was called for assistance by Belgium. Another agreement of 24 Articles between the two countries was signed in London (1839) and Belgium had to render some territory (Eastern Limburg, Zeeuws Vlaanderen, French Flanders and Eupen). At the same time it gained western parts of Luxemburg.
In the following years, Belgium’s infrastructure was developed and Belgium became one of the most industrialized countries in Europe. Under Leopold II, Belgium experienced various political crises such as the question on universal suffrage or lively discussion concerning French and Dutch as the country’s official language. With the “Equality Law” of 1898, Dutch was recognized as official language next to French. (Overzicht België, 2006) For the purpose of his personal enrichment, Leopold II wanted to extend his territory. With tactical negotiations, he established the Congo Free State in 1885, declared it his property and started to exploit the area, irrespective of the damage caused on its population and the country. In 1908, it was renamed into Belgian Congo and became part of the Belgian administration.
Because Belgium had become the battle field of Europe throughout the preceding centuries, it intended to stay neutral during both world wars (Brodocz & Vorländer, 2007, para. 3). Notwithstanding its peaceful intentions, it was invaded and served as an arena for combat during the static warfare in WW I. At the end of the war, Belgium undertook a second try to annex southern parts of the Netherlands but was held back by the Dutch army. The Treaty of Versailles obliged Germany to return the German-speaking regions Eupen, Malmédy and Saint-Virth to Belgium as compensation for the war. Additionally, Belgium received the African territory of Ruanda-Urundi. The mandate of Ruanda-Urundi was handed over to the UN in 1946 and two independent states under the name of Rwanda and Burundi were born in 1962. The Belgian Congo remained under Belgian control but received its independence in 1960 and became the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While the Spanish succeeded in restoring their sovereignty in the southern part, the Dutch provinces formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579. William, the hero who led the Dutch to independence, was assassinated in 1584 and the States-General explored new possibilities to find a new leader. After four years of negotiation and deliberation with France and England to receive foreign assistance and the search for a new head of state, it concluded the Republic of the United Provinces in 1588 which consisted of seven sovereign provinces. (Friesland, Groningen, Overijssel, Gelderland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Holland).
The following century provided the Dutch with great fortune: The United East India Company was set up in 1602 and a similar enterprise, the Dutch West India Company was established in 1621. Trade and commerce grew and the Republic of the United Provinces became one of the most prosperous corners of Europe. This period is known as the Golden Age due to the fact that in contrary to the rest of Europe, the 7 Provinces experienced a remarkable economic, cultural and scientific development. The Dutch fleet expanded and outran the English. Furthermore, the trade triangle for the exchange of goods and slaves between the west cost of Africa, the Caribbean and Europe was established and at the same time, the Dutch had seized today’s Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the southern top of Africa. Moreover, they controlled Brazil, parts of the new world in America and acquired what is now the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.
War and Peace
Regardless of the economic boost, the fighting with Spain did not come to an end. The Republic found support in the French and English alliance against the Spanish and the struggle continued on land and the sea. The Peace Treaty of Münster (Westphalia) in 1648 ended the Eighty Years’ War and officially recognized the United Provinces as a sovereign state. This date can be said to mark the Dutch’s independent existence and recognition across Europe. (Brodocz and Vorländer, 2007, para. 1) Later, England promulgated the Navigation Act with the goal to undermine the Dutch monopoly on naval trade due to diverging commercial interests. The countries standpoints clashed, starting two Anglo-Dutch wars, which were settled by a provision to the England’s Navigation Act in 1667. Nevertheless, the young republic was still in constant danger of invasion due to twisting coalitions among European powers. In 1672, it was invaded by France in the south and its German allies in the east, which occupied the entire territory but the province of Holland, Zeeland and the city of Groningen. (Dutch History, 2007)
William III succeeded in driving out the forces of the occupied territory and married Mary Stuart in 1677. After he helped the Protestants in England with military assistance, he became King of England and at the same time, he remained Stadholder of the Republic. Throughout this period, he also tried to setup a coalition against France, which consisted of the Austrian emperor, several German states and even Spain. (Dutch History, 2007)
The wars against France quickly mirrored in an economic decline and Dutch industry and trade began to falter. At that time, the Americans revolted against British domination and were supported by the Dutch. These circumstances led to another Dutch naval war against the British fleet. (Fourth Anglo-Dutch War) Since the Republic had neglected its navy in the last years, the British landed a major success against the Dutch and seized most of their overseas possessions.
During the French revolutionary period of 1789, the Netherlands were invaded and occupied by France. In 1793, the Batavian Republic and a National Assembly under the rule of Patriots, which had prior fled to France, was declared and the Netherlands became a French vassal state. In 1804, when Napoleon Bonaparte seized absolute power in France, the Batavian Republic became the Kingdom of Holland. Napoleon I then introduced an embargo against the British and sent his brother Louis to the Netherlands in order to govern the provinces. Unsatisfied with his brother’s reluctance to enforce the embargo against the British, he annexed the entire Kingdom of Holland into France.
After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, French troops started to withdraw from the region and in 1815, the Prince of Orange, William Frederick, son of the now deceased William V, became King William I of the Netherlands. As already known from Belgium’s history, the Congress of Vienna united Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg into the Kingdom of the Netherlands to limit the power of France. Belgium, however, opposed this involuntary unification from the beginning: Due to different customs, languages, religions and economies, the relation between the northern and the southern part of the Netherlands was not in an optimal state. King William I tried to introduce the Dutch language in the southern parts of his empire and mainly ruled by royal decree, which did not call for parliament’s approval and earned criticism from the public. Eventually, he lost popularity in the south and the provinces broke away from the Kingdom in 1830. As already known, William I signed the 24 Articles which confirmed Belgium’s secession from the Netherlands but still hoped for their reunification until in 1839 when a final agreement with Belgium was signed. He abdicated two years later.
The next period of the Netherlands is marked with revolutionary sentiments and constitutional reform under William II which led to a new political system on the one hand and the establishment of fundamental civil rights (provided by the constitution) on the other hand. The Netherlands transformed their agriculture-based economy and developed their industry. Simultaneously, the influence of the monarch in the political process changed. When Princess Wilhelmina was born in 1880, she became the first female who was heir to the throne since all male heirs had died.
During WW I, the Netherlands remained neutral and avoided any involvement with the ongoing war. The Second World War, however, brought more balefulness to the country: the city of Rotterdam was almost totally destroyed by German bombs, the country was occupied, and a large part of the Dutch population lost their lives. The Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies, which wanted to gain their independence from the Netherlands. After initial encounters between Dutch authorities and revolutionaries, Indonesia was credited its sovereignty in 1949. Other colonies like West New Guinea (now part of Indonesia) and Suriname also became independent in the following years. The Netherlands Antilles (which back then still included the island of Aruba) were made self-governing and equal members of the Dutch Kingdom in 1954.
The first records of Luxemburg can be found in the construction of the Luxemburg Castle in 963 on top of a rock between the Meuse and Moselle rivers. (Luxemburg, 2003) During the following centuries, a village developed around the castle and the stronghold that overlooked the area was intensively fortified. Different dynasties (Bourbons, Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns) successively strengthened the fort and slowly but gradually constructed a bastion which came to be known as the “Gibraltar of the North”. (Gibraltar of the North, 2006) In 1354, Luxemburg was made a Duchy by John of Luxemburg and the city quickly gained prestige.
Between the 15th and the 18th century, Luxemburg was exposed to various ruling dynasties. Diplomatic bargaining, war and negotiations led to the fact that the estates of Luxemburg changed possession way too many times to explicitly name them all during these introductory paragraphs of this paper. After the death of Mary of Burgundy in 1477, it became part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire and was then part of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty until the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659 when the southern part of the duchy was ceded to France and the territory of the Grand Duchy was reduced for the first time. (Geschichte Luxemburgs, 2007) After the Eighty Year’s War between the 17 Dutch provinces and Spain, it was again in Austria’s possession until it returned to France after French revolutionary wars and the signature of the peace treaty in Campo Formio (1797). Luxemburg was annexed to France and became part of the French system of departments.
Loss of territory – Gain of independence
At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Luxemburg was given the status of a Grand Duchy. Although it was theoretically made an independent state, it was placed under Dutch sovereignty in a personal union with King William of the Netherlands who claimed it to be the 18th province of the Netherlands. (Tout savoir, 2004) This deal came into existence because both, the Netherlands and Prussia, claimed the Grand Duchy due to heiress but agreed to settle the dispute by an exchange of their territories. While placed under Dutch rule, Prussian troops were manned in the fortress and Luxemburg became part of the German Confederation. The second partition of the Grand Duchy after 1815 ceded additional territory to Prussia which reduced the Grand Duchy’s territory by 2.280 square kilometers. (Gardini, 2006, para.3)
The following period was marked with a gradual independence of the Grand Duchy, which has its origin in the Brabant revolution in 1830 where parts of Luxemburg’s population joined the uprising against Dutch rule. The First Treaty of London in 1839 ensured Luxemburg’s independence and regulated the territorial disputes between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. Therefore, the predominately French-speaking part of the Grand Duchy was ceded to Belgium, (Province of Luxemburg), which created economic difficulties and led the remaining parts of Luxemburg to indirectly join the German Zollverein in 1842. At this point, the Grand Duchy took its present shape while the personal union with the Netherlands and its membership in the German Confederation continued.
When the German Confederation was dissolved in 1866, William III of the Netherlands intended to sell Luxemburg to France, which nearly led to another armed dispute between Prussia and France. A Second Treaty of London in 1867 can be said to have finally resolved the question on the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. Its full independence and neutrality was affirmed. The fortress with its Confederate Prussian troops was dismantled but the personal union with the Netherlands persisted until 1890 when William III, King of the Netherlands and Head of State as Grand Duke of Luxemburg died. The personal union with the Netherlands was disengaged due to the Salic Law of Luxemburg that prohibited female heirs . Duke Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg became grand duke of Luxemburg. (Luxembourg, 2003)
The neutral Grand Duchy was invaded and occupied during WW I and WW II and gave up its neutrality when it joined the UN in 1948. During the post war periods, the country has developed into on of the richest countries in the world and – together with Belgium and the Netherlands - been a catalyst for European integration.
It can be reasoned that the three countries basically shared common developments throughout history until the Dutch North of the Low Countries broke up from the Belgian and Luxemburgian South in 1579 and formed the Union of Utrecht. While the Dutch already had the possibility to govern themselves independently, Belgium and Luxemburg were still under the control of the Habsburg dynasty.
When France invaded the Low Countries under Napoleon, the three countries were placed under French rule. While the Dutch were able to set up the Batavian Republic (with the help of Dutch sympathizers for the French) and mainly adhered to their traditional principles, the French remodeled the existing legal and educational system of Belgium, where French became the dominant language. France’s dominance in Luxemburg was manifested by its integration in the French administration framework.
After the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, the major European powers decided to unite the three countries again to build a buffer state against future French expansion. During the next 15 years, the countries’ economy grew rapidly due to the unification. Nevertheless, cultural and religious differences between the Protestant North and the Catholic South soon became too apparent and Belgium broke away from the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830. Luxemburg, on the other hand, was ruled by the Dutch but largely self-governing. William I was determined to rule over one united kingdom and did not recognize the Belgian break-up until he signed the 24 Articles as a final settlement in 1839. While Belgium was independent and elected its own king, Luxemburg remained in a personal union with the Netherlands until 1890.
After the three countries finally received or restored their independence, they mainly focused on building their economies and therefore cooperation between them only played a minor role before WW I. The subsequent chapter will have a closer look on the engagement of the three countries to collaborate and will focus on the development of Benelux cooperation in the 20th century.
Simplified Abstract of Benelux History
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2. Benelux Cooperation
The first chapter looked at the history of the three Benelux countries from three separate angles and was not particularly responsive to their different forms of cooperation. That is why within this chapter, Benelux cooperation will be analyzed more deeply and chronologically explored. At this point, the paper deals with Benelux cooperation in general and does not separate economic and political cooperation. Later, a separation between the two forms of cooperation will be made.
For now, time is turned back for a few decades because it is interesting to study the development of inter Benelux cooperation during history. The intensity and the political will of enhanced cooperation between them generally depended on the political situation and the economy at this time. When the economy was in an upturn, additional considerations for a tighter coordinated work between the countries were made. Vice versa, when the political situation in Europe was tense and economic growth stagnated, the countries took a more protectionist approach and national interests prevailed.
Early tries to cooperate trace back to 1841 when William II visited Luxemburg. There, Norbert Metz asked the King of the Netherlands - and the same time Grand Duke of Luxemburg – to grant Luxemburg its own constitution and a parliament. Furthermore he requested a treaty with Belgium which should have been complemented with an economic union. This can be seen as the first indicator towards the Benelux cooperation (Roon van, 1994, p.13). Later, during the February revolution in Paris (1846), Belgium and the Netherlands cooperated on a military basis.
A period of economic stagnation followed and after its recovery in 1849, neutral Belgium wanted to fulfill a stronger international role and sought to continue negotiations with the Netherlands. The Netherlands with its colonies, though, had little interest in an enhanced cooperation with its southern neighbor. Reasons for that can be found in the fact that it was less continentally orientated than Belgium and that it wanted to maintain its good relations with France.
The first worldwide economic crisis of 1857 put Europe’s economies to the test. In the subsequent years, the Belgian foreign minister, Charles Rogier, favored a free trade union with the Netherlands and Luxemburg and expected an economic amelioration by means of an economic tariff union. Once more, the Dutch delegation reacted reluctantly and pointed out the problems related to that undertaking.
After another economic recession, negotiations between the countries increased. Nevertheless, some discrepancies that mainly accounted for railway and water issues along the Maas River prevailed. In 1863, a step towards cooperation was made when three treaties concerning navigation and commerce were signed.
Ideas to establish a free trading area
A few years later, the two ministers for financial affairs Frère-Orban and the Dutch Van Bosse showed new support to establish a customs union between the countries. Baron Lambermont drafted a text that would establish a free trading area between the Benelux countries. Yet, the idea did not obtain sufficient support since the Netherlands and Luxemburg were supposed to only serve as an export market for Belgium and fulfill less important roles. Military and political contacts among the countries became more important and the question on the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg made it impossible to concentrate on the establishment of an economic union at this time.
In the final quarter of the 19th century, another period of economic stagnation swept the countries’ economies. Despite some attempts to give new impetus to the ideas that developed in 1869, foreign and domestic policies became more protectionist and the distance between Belgium and the Netherlands increased. “The war on Sumatra, the lasting economic stagnation and great differences between the countries taxation regulation would have imposed a too big sacrifice for the Netherlands to engage in economic cooperation with Belgium.” (Roon van, 1994, p.18)
With the death of William III, the personal union between the Netherlands and Luxemburg came to an end and contacts between the two countries decreased. Nevertheless, a visit of William III in Luxemburg gave birth to another idea of cooperation: Every two years one wanted to organize a cultural and industrial exposition in Amsterdam and Brussels.
In 1907, one idea set up a Dutch-Belgian Commission to study economic questions in the interest of both countries and decided to have at least one meeting a year that would be accessible for everybody.
During WW I, Belgium and Luxemburg were occupied and the Belgian government left to Le Havre into exile. At the same time, a lot of Belgian refugees settled in the Netherlands. With the end of the war in 1918, the tension between Belgium and the Netherlands increased again. Belgium formed a Committee called Comité de Politique Nationale whose goal was to gain additional territory due to demanded reparation.
Belgium-Luxemburg Economic Union (BLEU)
In 1919, Luxemburg held a referendum where a majority of its population was in favor of an affiliation with France while at the same time keeping its independence and resting a Grand Duchy. France, however, needed Belgium in order to counterbalance Germany’s strong policies and refused Luxemburg’s request. Luxemburg’s economy was small and it therefore depended on an economic union with one of its neighbors. As a result, Belgium and Luxemburg agreed to establish the Belgium-Luxemburg Economic Union (BLEU) in 1921, which at the same time included a monetary union. Doing so, they asserted their cooperation in some limited fields like the establishment of enterprises and persons, as well as agreements on customs. (Postma & Hennekam, 1994, p.9) The treaty became effective in 1922 and was valid for 50 years. It was prolonged for an additional period of ten years in 1982, 1992 and most recently in 2002 (effective 2004). The last renewal of the convention also paid tribute to the new setup of the Belgian state. In 1999, the monetary union between Belgium and Luxemburg ceased to exist due to participation in the European Monetary Union. (Rappel historique, 2007)
Oslo and Ouchy
During the time after the war, a common development was found within the framework of the Oslo Convention, which was signed by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) on 22 December 1930. It included a simple mutual tariff agreement in order to freeze tolls. At this time, Great Britain and Germany were the countries’ main trading partners and unwilling to sign the accord. That is why the Oslo Convention “as an actual agreement was virtually forgotten”. (Educational, 1937, para.6). According to Van Roon (1994, p.28), the Belgian head officer of the ministry for foreign affairs M. Suetens and his Dutch colleague, J.A. Nederbragt, initiated the idea of lowering the county’s tariffs in order to maintain the influence of the smaller countries in 1932. The crux was to lower the tariffs of participating countries by an annual 10% to a level of 4% from the value of the semi-finished products. This convention should have been in force for five years and been the first step towards a customs union. When the delegates of the parties to the Oslo Convention met in June for negotiations in Ouchy nearby Genève, it was only Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg, who eventually signed it. This agreement became known as the Ouchy Convention, although a month later, the foreign ministers of the three countries officially signed it in Genève.
This agreement in 1932 was followed by further steps in 1933 to increase the countries’ economic cooperation in the future. Due to increased international tensions, Belgium and the Netherlands drew closer and stayed in close contact concerning political issues and military precaution measures (Roon van, 1994, p.31-32).
During WW II, the three governments fled abroad: Belgium and the Netherlands went into exile in London, whereas Luxemburg escaped to Lisbon. The Belgian and the Dutch government faced each other on London’s Eaton Square, which certainly helped to increase the dialogue between the two countries.
Plans to bundle synergies have already existed since 1940 when Johannes Van the Broek (NL) and Camille Gutt (BE) announced that their respective countries wanted to increase future co-operation on an economical level. Nevertheless, the two countries were not yet conscious about their situation of being in the same boat and wanted to integrate step by step. In 1943, the countries signed an agreement that set the exchange rate between the Belgian-Luxemburgian franc and the Dutch guilder. Since reconstruction in the post-war period needed to be financed, the agreement put emphasis on the practical side of cooperation and included an instrument for mutual financing in case one country had a deficit in its balance. Although the monetary agreement soon lost its significance due to the later Marshall plan and a European multilateral clearing scheme, it can be seen as the ignition of the countries’ integration and their cooperation. Benelux cooperation in general intensified during their exile abroad. A German newspaper later wrote that the countries engagement in exile could have been seen as “the beginning of the realization of their coalition that slowly but steadily started to take shape”. (Beloff, 1947).
Besides the economic aspect of cooperation, the countries also had a political motive to enhance cooperation: While the war was still being fought, the countries’ fear increased that the great powers such as Great Britain and the USA were drawing post-war Europe. Out of these considerations, it soon crystallized that closer cooperation among the three small countries could serve to augment their political weight and decrease the risk of being neglected as an individual state.
Benelux Customs Union
After the Monetary Agreement in 1943, the Benelux countries signed the Benelux Customs Convention in 1944, which aimed to develop their cooperation into an economic union. The goal was to facilitate trade among the Benelux and therefore abolish customs duties. The same aspects that accounted for the Monetary Agreement also played a role in this decision: Acting as a block by means of a Customs Union would help the three countries to survive as small states during a period in which bigger powers were re-shaping the European continent.
When the war was over, the three governments had begun the reconstruction process. Economically, the war had affected Belgian industry to a lesser extent than it had the Dutch, since Belgium had been liberated in 1944 and the Netherlands in 1945. Jean-Charles Snoy, the former president of the Benelux Council during 1944-46, asserted in an interview that Belgium’s equipment was only minimally destroyed and therefore it was ready to start an economic process right after its liberation. Furthermore, he pointed out that “Belgium’s greatest need from the Marshall plan was to start again with the normal pattern of trade”. (Snoy, 1964, para.15) That is why indirect aid was given to Belgium by enabling OEEC members (Organization for European Economic Cooperation – the forerunner of today’s OECD) to purchase Belgian merchandise. Additional money poured into the treasury, when American and British troops had to pay Belgium a usage fee for the Antwerp harbor. (R. Coolsaet, personal interview, 8 March 2007) The Netherlands were worse off after WW II and the combination of Marshall Plan aid and loans from Belgium were needed to rebuild its economy. During the Marshall Plan negotiations, the three countries always appeared as a delegation and were one of the first countries that met the requirements for the US subsidies. (Brouwer, 2003, p.468)
Piece by piece, considerations to transform the Benelux Customs Union into an economic union became more concrete. The first Benelux ministerial conference took place in The Hague in 1946, where it was decided to establish Benelux institutions without delay and two months later, the Benelux Secretariat-General started its work. (Roon van, 1994, p.65) The Benelux Customs Union entered into force in 1948. With the Customs Union in place; the countries gradually lifted quantitative restrictions on their trade within the Benelux, established a common tariff at the outer borders, and agreed to apply a mutual trade policy towards third countries.
The name “Benelux”
At the same time, the name “Benelux” was born. F.M. Aspeslagh, a Belgian economist who also was a correspondent for “The Economist” invented the name by combining the three countries’ first syllables and creating the word “Benelux”. Since working patters for the paper forced him to say as much as possible with as little space as necessary, he searched for a way to shorten the expression of “the customs union between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg”. He experimentalized with “Nebelux” in the beginning but soon decided to adopt the term “Benelux” due to its better sound. (Benelux Secretariat-General, 1985, p.9)
Since the Customs Union between the three countries was seen to be the first step towards an Economic Union with a common internal market, talks to realize this plan continued. In 1949, the countries signed a Preliminary Benelux Economic Treaty that targeted the abolition of trade quotas and would prepare the road for a Benelux Economic Union. One needs to keep in mind that harmonization and integration of trade was a sensible area because the countries greatly depended on their economies and at the same time wanted to protect them. Moreover, there was a contradiction between the Belgian and the Dutch economic systems. The German Spiegel ran an article on 13 October 1949 with the title “The bride was beautiful” were it examined the economic problems the three Benelux countries had to face after the Customs Union took effect. Since intra-Benelux tariffs have been abolished, it wrote that Dutch beer and cigarettes in Belgium were much cheaper than before and analyzed the Belgian’s resentment. The article continued to explain the people’s anger against the “Dutch dumping” and asserted that the Dutch government should have raised salaries for industries and workers. (Die Braut, 1952) While politicians tried to finalize their cooperation, public opinion in Belgium manifested skepticism, reluctance, open rejection, and imperturbable adherence to the Benelux idea. During this period many thought that a true Benelux could never be implemented if there was no common currency in all three Benelux countries and their relationship was not one of giving and taking. (Dvorak, 1949)
Subsequently two protocols to coordinate economic and social policies and a common trade policy were signed in 1953. This period can be seen as a time of intensive attempts to enhance cooperation. The difficult task lied in the fact that there was no real point of reference for the three countries besides the Belgium-Luxemburg Economic Union of 1921. There was no working system in place yet were the Benelux could have found orientation and help to construct the framework for an economic union. (Duijk, 1999) Therefore, the countries had to start from scratch and design a framework that would allow them to create an economic union to begin with, then leading to the production of political weight.
Benelux Economic Union Treaty
The efforts of the precedent years produced results in February 1958, when the three countries signed the Treaty of the Benelux Economic Union. The treaty was basically a consolidation of all existing Benelux agreements, protocols and conventions. (Doc. 743/4, 2006) Next to the creation of its institutions, it also foresaw the free movement of people, goods, capital and services between the Benelux area. Moreover, the countries expressed their wish to coordinate their policies in the economic, financial, and social fields while defining economic progress as the principal aim of their union (Treaty establishing the BEU, 1958). One might wonder about the signature in February 1958 since the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, took effect in January 1958, a month before the signature of the BEU Treaty. The answer lies in the long path the three Benelux countries have walked together in order to establish their own union. Therefore, the three countries disposed over experience and savoir-faire while the Union of six was still in its developing phase. “This decision was taken because this integration had made considerable progress whereas the European adventure was just beginning.” (Benelux Information, 2006, p.11) The special status of the three countries was also mirrored in Article 233 of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, which gave the Benelux a unique recognition of their cooperation.
 At this point, one started to refer to the language areas as communities.
 The Low Countries included the coastal area of north-western Europe and therefore parts of today’s Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.
 At this time, 50% of the world trade was transacted in the cities of Rotterdam and Antwerp. (Orgovanyi-Hanstein, 2005, p.24)
 At the same time, a second revolution broke out in the Bishopric of Liège, which was under the Spanish Habsburg rule.
 William III wanted to sell it to France.
 In 1955, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed a convention that established an Interparliamentary Council (Benelux Parliament).
 Art. 306 EC-Treaty
- Quote paper
- Marcus Hitzberger (Author), 2007, Benelux cooperation now and beyond 2010, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/74824