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Benelux Union
The Benelux, consisting of Belgium (south), the Netherlands (north) and Luxembourg (south-east)
The Benelux, consisting of Belgium (south), the Netherlands (north) and Luxembourg (south-east)
Location of the Benelux (green) in Europe (dark grey)
Location of the Benelux (green) in Europe (dark grey)
and largest city
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Official languages Dutch, French[1]
Official languages
of contracting states
Type Politico-economic union
Member states
Legislature Parliament
 •  Customs union treaty signed 5 September 1944[2] 
 •  Customs union in effect 1 January 1948[2] 
 •  Renewal signed 17 June 2008 
 •  Renewal in effect 1 January 2010 
 •  Total 76,657 km2
29,597 sq mi
 •  estimate 28.5 million
 •  Density 380/km2
984/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2013 estimate
 •  Total $1.379 trillion[3]
 •  Per capita $48,359
Currency Euro (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 •  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Drives on the right

The Benelux Union (Dutch: Benelux Unie;[4] French: Union Benelux[5]) is a politico-economic union of three neighbouring states in central-western Europe: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.[6] The name—Benelux—is formed from joining the first two or three letters of each country's name—Belgium Netherlands Luxembourg—and was first used to name the customs agreement that initiated the union (signed in 1944).[7] It is now used more generally to refer to the geographic, economic and cultural grouping of the three countries.

In 1951, these countries joined West Germany, France, and Italy to form the European Coal and Steel Community, a predecessor of the European Economic Community (EEC) and today's European Union (EU).

The main institutions of the Union are the Committee of Ministers, the Benelux Parliament, the Council of the Union and the Secretariat-General, while the Benelux Organization for Intellectual Property and the Benelux Court of Justice cover the same territory but are not part of the Union.

The Benelux Secretariat-General is located in Brussels. It is the central administrative pillar of the Benelux 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[clarification needed] the registry[clarification needed] of the Benelux Court of Justice.


Benelux Prime Ministers Mark Rutte (Netherlands), Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg) and Yves Leterme (Belgium) in The Hague on 24 May 2011.

A Benelux Parliament (originally referred to as an "Interparliamentary Consultative Council") was created in 1955. This parliamentary assembly is composed of 21 members of the Dutch parliament, 21 members of the Belgian national and regional parliaments, and 7 members of the Luxembourg parliament.

In 1944, exiled representatives of the three countries signed the London Customs Convention, the treaty that established the Benelux Customs Union. Ratified in 1947, the treaty was in force from 1948 until it was superseded by the Benelux Economic Union. The treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union (Benelux Economische Unie/Union Économique Benelux) was signed on 3 February 1958 in The Hague and came into force on 1 November 1960 to promote the free movement of workers, capital, services, and goods in the region. Under the Treaty the Union implies the co-operation of economic, financial and social policies.


The Benelux Union involves an intergovernmental cooperation. Decisions are taken unanimously.[citation needed]

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.[clarification needed] They only become legally valid after having been incorporated into national law.[citation needed]

The Treaty establishing the Benelux 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 are a large number of Benelux conventions in a wide range of subject matters.[8]

The Committee of Ministers can issue directives to the Council of Economic Union, the Committees, the General Secretariat and the joint services.[citation needed]

In 1965, the treaty establishing a Benelux Court of Justice was signed. It entered into force in 1975.[citation needed] 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 is located in Brussels.

The Benelux is particularly active in the field of intellectual property. The three countries established a Benelux Trademarks Office and a Benelux Designs Office, both situated in The Hague. In 2005, they concluded a treaty establishing a Benelux Organization for Intellectual Property which replaced both offices upon its entry into force on 1 September 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.[9]

Demographics and geography

Detailed map of the Benelux, including all municipalities.

The Benelux region has a total population of about 28,365,937 and occupies an area of approximately 74,640 square kilometres (28,820 sq mi). Thus, the Benelux has a population density of 380/km² (983/sq mi).

Country Capital Population
2013 estimate
Area Population density
Benelux 28,536,867 74,657 square kilometres (28,825 sq mi) 379.9/km² (984.1/sq mi)
 Belgium Brussels 11,176,020 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi) 360.6/km² (933.8/sq mi)
 Luxembourg Luxembourg 540,840 2,586 square kilometres (998 sq mi) 197.9/km² (512.6/sq mi)
 Netherlands Amsterdam 16,847,007 41,543 square kilometres (16,040 sq mi) 405.5/km² (1050.3/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.[10]

Renewal of the agreement

The Benelux Union office in Brussels.

The Treaty between the Benelux countries establishing the Benelux Economic Union was limited to a period of 50 years. During the following years, and even more so 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 years, the governments of the three Benelux countries decided to renew the agreement, taking into account the new aspects of the Benelux-cooperation – such as security – and the new federal government structure of Belgium. The original establishing treaty, set to expire in 2010, was replaced by a new legal framework (called the Treaty revising the Treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union), which was signed on 17 June 2008.

The new treaty has no set time limit and the name of the Benelux Economic Union changed to Benelux Union to reflect the broad scope on the union.[11] 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 that the Benelux countries will cooperate with other European member States or with regional cooperation structures. 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.

See also


  1. "Révision portant sur le traité de 1958" (PDF) (in French). 2008. Article 38 : le français et le néerlandais sont les langues officielles des institutions de l'Union BeneluxCS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Peaslee, Amos Jenkins; Xydis, Dorothy Peaslee (1974). International governmental organizations. BRILL. p. 165. ISBN 978-90-247-1601-2. Retrieved 4 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. [1] International Monetary Fund Statistics
  4. "Over de Benelux" (in Nederlands). Benelux. Retrieved 9 February 2015. Dit alles onder een nieuwe naam: de Benelux Unie.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "A propos du Benelux" (in français). Benelux. Retrieved 9 February 2015. Le 17 juin 2008, un nouveau Traité Benelux était signé. Désormais, la coopération va se concentrer sur trois thèmes-clés: le marché intérieur & l’union économique, le développement durable et la justice & les affaires intérieures et tout ceci sous un nouveau nom:l’Union Benelux.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Encyclopediae Britannica about the Benelux Treaty of Economic Union
  7. Revue de l'Institut International de Statistique (1947) Vol. 15, No. 1/4, page 43. However, according to The Economist, it was coined in August 1946 by that newspaper's correspondent in Belgium ("Going Dutch". The Economist. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>).
  8. "Benelux in a nutshell". General Secretariat of the Benelux. Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. [2] Archived June 4, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  10. "Benelux countries launch 2018 World Cup bid". ESPN. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Benelux union Archived June 1, 2015 at the Wayback Machine

External links

Official sites