is an economic union
An economic union is a type of trade bloc which is composed of a common market with a customs union. The participant countries have both common policies on product regulation, freedom of movement of goods, services and the factors of production and a common external trade policy.The countries...
in Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...
comprising three neighbouring countries, Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...
, the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...
, and Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...
. These countries are located in northwestern Europe between France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
. The Union's name is formed from the beginning of each country's name; it was possibly created for the Benelux Customs Union, although according to The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...
it was coined somewhat earlier, in August 1946, by that newspaper's correspondent in Belgium. It is now used in a more generic way to refer to the cultural, economic, and geographic grouping.
In 1951, these countries joined West Germany, France, and Italy to form the European Coal and Steel Community
The European Coal and Steel Community was a six-nation international organisation serving to unify Western Europe during the Cold War and create the foundation for the modern-day developments of the European Union...
, the earliest version of the modern European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...
The main institutions of the Union are the Committee of Ministers, the Parliament, the Council of the Union, the Court of Justice, the Secretariat-General, the Organization for Intellectual Property.
The Benelux Secretary-General is located in Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...
. It is the central administrative pillar of the Benelux Economic Union. It handles the secretariat of the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Economic Union and the various committees and working parties. Moreover, it ensures the registry of the Benelux Court of Justice.
A Benelux Parliament
The Benelux Parliament, formally the Benelux Interparliamentary Consultative Council, is one of the institutions of the Benelux Economic Union, more commonly referred to as the "Benelux"...
(originally referred to as Interparliamentary Consultative Council
) was created in 1955. This parliamentary assembly
A parliamentary assembly can mean one of the following:*National Parliament, a type of state legislative assembly body*Assembly of national parliaments, an inter-parliamentary institution of state national legislatures...
is composed of 21 members of the Dutch parliament, 21 members of the Belgian national and regional parliaments, and 7 members of the Luxembourgish parliament.
In 1944, the three countries signed the London Customs Convention
Officially titled the Netherlands–Belgium–Luxembourg Customs Convention, the London Customs Convention was the treaty that established the Benelux Customs Union on 1944-09-05...
, the treaty that established the Benelux Customs Union. Ratified in 1947, the treaty was in force from 1948 until being supplanted by the Benelux Economic Union. The treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union (Benelux Economische Unie/Union Économique Benelux
) was signed on February 3, 1958 in The Hague and came into force on November 1, 1960 to promote the free movement of workers, capital
In economics, capital, capital goods, or real capital refers to already-produced durable goods used in production of goods or services. The capital goods are not significantly consumed, though they may depreciate in the production process...
, services, and goods in the region. Under the Treaty the Union implies the co-operation of economic, financial and social policies.
The Benelux Economic Union involves an intergovernmental cooperation. Decisions are taken unanimously.
The unification of the law of the three Benelux countries is mainly achieved by regulations of its Committee of Ministers, that only bind the three states, but are not directly applicable in their internal legal orders. They only become legally valid after having been incorporated into national law.
The Treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union has provided the Committee of Ministers with the following legal instruments: decisions, conventions, recommendations and directives.
The Committee of Ministers can promulgate decisions in the fields for which it has competence - those fields are explicitly set down in the Union Treaty or the additional conventions. When the Committee of Ministers adopts a decision, it immediately becomes binding on the three governments. For a decision to be also applicable to the citizen, it must be transposed into national law.
The Union Treaty is not exhaustive. For this reason, Article 19 of the Treaty provides that the Committee of Ministers may conclude additional conventions. These therefore constitute extensions of the Union Treaty. They are submitted to the national parliaments for approval in keeping with the ratification procedure applied in each of the Member States. Thus, there is a large number of Benelux conventions in a wide range of subject matters.
Approval of a recommendation by the Committee of Ministers is not legally binding, but rather a moral stance by the three governments. Recommendations are not devoid of any binding effect in that their approval implies an undertaking in view of their execution.
The Committee of Ministers can issue directives to the Council of Economic Union, the Committees, the General Secretariat and the joint services.
In 1965, the treaty establishing a Benelux Court of Justice was signed. It entered into force in 1975. The Court, composed of judges from the highest courts of the three States, has to guarantee the uniform interpretation of common legal rules. This international judicial institution
International judicial institutions can be divided into courts, arbitral tribunals and quasi-judicial institutions. Courts are permanent bodies, with near the same composition for each case. Arbitral tribunals, by contrast, are constituted anew for each case. Both courts and arbitral tribunals can...
is located in Brussels.
The Benelux is particularly active in the field of intellectual property
Intellectual property is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law...
. The three countries established a Benelux Trademarks Office
and a Benelux Designs Office
, both situated in The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...
. In 2005, they concluded a treaty establishing a Benelux Organization for Intellectual Property
The Benelux Office for Intellectual Property is the registration office for trademarks and designs in the Benelux. The BOIP was previously known as the Benelux Trademarks Office and the Benelux Designs Office The Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) is the registration office for...
which replaced both offices upon its entry into force on September 1, 2006. This Organization is the official body for the registration of trademarks and designs in the Benelux. In addition, it offers the possibility to formally record the existence of ideas, concepts, designs, prototypes and the like.
The Benelux region has a total population of about 28,365,937 and occupies an area of approximately 74640 square kilometres (28,818.7 sq mi). Thus, the Benelux has a population density of 380/km² (983/sq mi).
In 2000, Belgium and the Netherlands jointly hosted the UEFA European Championship. In June 2007, representatives of the three countries announced they would bid, as a single political entity, for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Treaty between the Benelux countries establishing the Benelux Economic Union was for a period of 50 years. During the following years and even more after the creation of the European Union, the Benelux cooperation focused on developing other fields of activity within a constantly changing international context.
At the end of the 50-year period, the governments of the three Benelux-countries considered that it was time for renewal, taking into account the new aspects of the Benelux-cooperation – such as security – and the new federal state structure in Belgium.
Thus, the treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union expired in 2010 and was replaced by a new legal framework (Treaty revising the Treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union), which was signed on June 17, 2008. This renewed Treaty has been concluded for an undetermined duration.
The name of the Benelux economic union
will change to Benelux union
to reflect this broader scope.
The main objectives of the treaty are the continuation and enlargement of the cooperation between the three member states within a larger European context. The renewed Treaty explicitly foresees the possibility for the Benelux-countries to cooperate with other European member States or regional cooperation structures of these countries.
The new Benelux cooperation focuses on three main topics: internal market and economic union, sustainability, justice and internal affairs.
The number of structures in the renewed Treaty has been reduced and thus simplified. Five Benelux institutions remain:
the Benelux Committee of Ministers, the Benelux Council, the Benelux Parliament, the Benelux Court of Justice, the Benelux Secretariat General. Beside these five institutions, the Benelux Organization for Intellectual Property is also present in this Treaty.