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Benelux Union

Benelux Union logo

Unofficial flag of the Benelux Union

State of the Benelux Union (green)
French name Union Benelux
Dutch name Benelux Unie
Seat of the organs Brussels , Belgium (General Secretariat)
Secretary General Jan P. R. M. van Laarhoven (Netherlands),
Luc Willems (deputy; Belgium),
Alain de Muyser (deputy; Luxembourg)
Member States 3 :

BelgiumBelgium Belgium , Netherlands , Luxembourg

Official and working languages

French , Dutch

surface 74,654 km²
population 28,478,256 (January 1, 2013)
Population density 382 inhabitants per km²
gross domestic product EUR 1,387 billion
Gross domestic product per inhabitant 48,666 EUR
  • February 3, 1958, in force November 1, 1960 ( Benelux Treaty )
  • June 17, 2008, in force January 1, 2012 (renamed Benelux Union; new edition of the Benelux Treaty)


Time zone UTC + 1 CET
UTC + 2 CEST (March to October)

The Benelux Union , in short the Benelux (formerly Benelux Economic Union , also Benelux and Benelux ) consists of Be lgien , the Netherlands ( Ne derland) and Lux embourg .

In 1944, a customs union was agreed between the countries, which was largely put into practice when the Benelux Treaty came into force in 1960. The European unification made the agreements on economic cooperation Although largely obsolete, while still important are aspects of cooperation between the three countries. The Union renewed itself in 2008 with a new agreement and shortened its name to Benelux Union instead of Benelux Economic Union , in order to emphasize its new focus.

Organs of the Benelux Union

The Committee of Ministers, which is made up of the three foreign ministers , is the highest body in the Benelux Union.

Other organs are:

  • the Benelux Council,
  • the Advisory Interparliamentary Benelux Council (with 21 Belgian, Dutch and 7 Luxembourgish MPs each),
  • the General Secretariat in Brussels,
  • the Benelux Court of Justice (established by treaty of March 31, 1965 ).


Early prehistory

History of the Benelux countries
Franconian Empire
≈ 800–843
Middle Kingdom (Lotharii Regnum)
various noble possessions
Wapen Prinsbisdom Luik.png
Diocese of Liège

Burgundian Netherlands
(House of Burgundy)


Burgundian Netherlands
(House of Habsburg)

Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
Spanish Netherlands
Republic of the Seven United Provinces
1579 / 1581–1795
Spanish Netherlands
Austrian Low Countries Flag.svg
Austrian Netherlands
Flag of the navy of the Batavian Republic.svg
Batavian Republic
Flag of France.svg
France ( First Republic )
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of Holland
Flag of France.svg
French Empire (First Empire)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
(House of Orange-Nassau)

Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
(House of Orange-Nassau)
Flag of the Netherlands.svg
Kingdom of the Netherlands
(House of Orange-Nassau)
from 1830
Flag of Belgium.svg
Kingdom of Belgium
(House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
from 1830
Flag of Luxembourg.svg
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
(House Nassau-Weilburg)
from 1890

The area, which later includes the Benelux area, is called de Lage Landen in Dutch , in English Low Countries in contrast to the current state of the Netherlands , which is called Nederland or The Netherlands . These “lower lands” are shaped by the Rhine-Maas-Delta area, as a cultural-historical area they can also extend a little beyond today's state borders, for example into the north department . Historically, the “lower lands” appear in the Middle Ages as the northern part of the Middle Kingdom , later as the Duchy of Lower Lorraine , which, however, does not last long. The further development can be followed on the timeline on the right.

In the 19th and 20th centuries

The three countries were united under the crown of the Dutch king from 1815 to 1830 , until Belgium became independent. Until 1890 the Dutch king was also the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

The forerunners of the Benelux Treaty were the Economic Union ( UEBL ) concluded between Luxembourg and Belgium on July 25, 1921, including the monetary union . In 1930 there was a conference in Oslo at which the Netherlands and the Scandinavian states announced their mutual intention to inform one another about their trade policy. In this spirit, the Netherlands, together with Belgium and Luxembourg, signed the Quichy Convention in 1932, which sought to lower commercial tariffs. Neither agreement was of great practical importance.

Founded in 1944/1948

During the Second World War , the Belgian government in exile suggested further cooperation between the Benelux countries, but the Dutch Foreign Minister Van Kleffens was reluctant. He and his cabinet colleagues were externally oriented more towards Atlantic cooperation (i.e. with the United Kingdom and the United States ) and trade liberalization. This point of view changed due to personnel changes in the cabinet in the summer of 1943, and in October 1943 the three governments-in-exile signed an agreement in London which aimed at free currency exchange between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. On September 5, 1944, the governments in exile decided to found the Benelux Customs Union.

On January 1, 1948, the common, fairly low foreign trade tariff came into force, which did not improve the financial situation of the Netherlands. The decision of June 1948 to make the Benelux currencies fully convertible disrupted trade. The currency problem was only resolved in 1950 within the framework of the European payments union .

Benelux Treaty of 1958

The Benelux Treaty was signed by Belgium , the Netherlands and Luxembourg on February 3, 1958 . In it the establishment of an economic union was agreed, which should encompass all three countries. A mutual free exchange of goods , workers, services and capital was agreed for a period of 50 years . The State Treaty came into force on November 1, 1960. This meant that there were practically no more trade restrictions between the three states. In 1969, the protocol for the elimination of controls and formalities at internal borders as well as obstacles to free movement and the convention on the unification of the Benelux customs area followed .

Further development

Detailed map of the Benelux, including all administrative district and municipal boundaries

The Benelux countries are members of the European Union as well as the Eurozone , so that the economic significance, but not the political significance of the Benelux Treaty is rather small today. The College of the General Secretariat has had the right of initiative to issue directives since 1975. There has been extensive military cooperation between the states with Admiral Benelux since 1996. Another treaty was signed in 2004 that includes measures to combat cross-border crime. Police officers from the Benelux countries can enter their national territory on duty without the consent of the other countries. This goes even further than the Schengen Agreement of 1990.

In June 2007 it was officially announced that the Benelux countries would apply as a political entity for the 2018 World Cup, but Russia ultimately won the bid .

In 2008, a new version of the contract that expired in 2010 was signed for an unlimited period. The new contract provides for closer cooperation with North Rhine-Westphalia , French Flanders and Champagne-Ardenne . The treaty deals with economic cooperation, sustainable development, judicial cooperation and the approximation of domestic policy. The contract also shortens the name of the Benelux Economic Union to Benelux Union. The new version came into force on January 1, 2012.

Significance of the Benelux for the unification of Europe

Where in Belgium most of the Dutch and where in the Netherlands most of the Belgians live

Duco Hellema doubts the picture that the Benelux Treaties stemmed from the spirit of the European idea, as the war had promoted it, and that the Benelux Treaties were a step in this direction, a field of experimentation for the later European Economic Community (EEC). The treaties continued to assume the status of the Netherlands and Belgium as colonial powers; In terms of content, the agreements remained vague and hardly bound the three states in concrete terms.

A Dutch senior official called the Benelux an "advertising project" which successfully applied for Marshall Plan aid; JJC Voorhoeve believes that the Benelux has spread the idea of ​​economic integration across Western Europe and that important lessons have been learned for later European integration. Historian AJ Boekestijn was more skeptical, pointing out that national interests were always in the foreground.

In the post-war period, “Benelux” had the diplomatic benefit of being able to act more internationally together, both in the Marshall Plan and in the Brussels Pact, and not least in relation to Germany. Economic hardship forced the Benelux to seek greater economic cooperation with Germany instead of compensation and satisfaction. In November 1947, it was jointly pointed out that the German economy should be rebuilt and trade relations liberalized, with simultaneous control and permanent occupation of Germany. In February 1948 the London Six Power Conference took place , including the three Benelux countries. Now a division of Germany and the building of a West German state were seen as inevitable; From an economic point of view, that was a positive signal for the Benelux.

But the Netherlands and Belgium had different starting positions. The Netherlands were poor in raw materials and embroiled in the Indonesian War of Independence (1945–1949). The country was also financially “empty-handed”, as Hellema writes. Belgium, on the other hand, was more industrialized than the Netherlands and was able to earn currency with its coal production. The balance of payments between the two countries tipped and Belgium became the big lender to the Netherlands. The Netherlands feared that implementation of the Benelux regulations would worsen this situation. At the same time Belgium came closer to France again.

A joint Benelux plan for greater European integration (spring 1955) was accepted by the other members of the ECSC at the Messina Conference in June 1955 . The Messina negotiations finally led to the signing of the Treaty of Rome in March 1957 .


  • Albert Bleckmann : The Benelux Economic Union . In: ZaöRV 22, 1962, pp. 239-295.
  • Duco Hellema: Neutrality & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen . Spectrum, Utrecht 2001.

Web links

Commons : Benelux  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Benelux  travel guide
Wiktionary: Benelux  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Occasionally written as Bénélux
  2. a b c d Benelux Chiffres-clés et Tendances 2014. ( PDF ; 10.3  MB ) Secrétariat général de l'Union Benelux (General Secretariat of the Benelux Union), accessed on March 24, 2015 (French).
  3. a b c d e f Benelux Unie Verdrag. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on March 10, 2014 ; Retrieved September 9, 2013 (Dutch).
  4. Deutschlandfunk : Free trade against the recession , June 20, 2007.
  5. See: Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, pp. 87/88.
  6. ^ A b Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, p. 117.
  7. ^ Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, p. 132.
  8. ^ Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, pp. 160/161.
  9. Benelux countries launch 2018 World Cup bid . In: ESPN , June 27, 2007. Retrieved October 29, 2007. 
  10. Only two votes for England , December 2, 2010
  11. ^ After Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, p. 161.
  12. ^ Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, pp. 129/130.
  13. ^ Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, pp. 130/131.
  14. ^ Duco Hellema: Neutraliteit & Vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van den Nederlandse buitenlandse betrekkingen. Spectrum, Utrecht 2001, pp. 131/132.