June 21, 2019

A 60th anniversary for the Benelux Union

By Alain de Muyser, Deputy Secretary General of the Benelux Union.

Launched in 1944 as a Customs Union, the Benelux cooperation was formally institutionalized in 1958 by a treaty setting up a “Benelux Economic Union”. In 2008, the treaty was expanded to sustainable development and security matters, thus becoming a “Benelux Union”.

As the initiator of the European common market, the three Benelux countries have played a significant role in the shaping of the European integration. Constantly adapting to new realities, the Benelux cooperationevolved from a thematic collaboration to encompass topics related to the welfare and security of its citizens, notably trans-border mobility, social cohesion, police cooperation and fraud prevention. Thus, in 1985, at the helm of European integration, and together with France and Germany, the Benelux initiated the Schengen agreements.

The Benelux “raison d’être” and added-value – both politically and economically – remains more relevant than ever.The Benelux countries, building on 60 years of shared experience, constantly prove that many of the challenges of our time need a flexible and pragmatic approach based on sharing and trusting.

Although not always in agreement, but always guided by an open minded approach, it is together that we can work out pragmatic and sustainable solutions to new “borderless” challenges, in the interest of the whole of Europe.

And with our leitmotiv “being greener and younger”, we demonstrate our responsibility towards future generations :

– Green mobility: we want the obstacles to be removed so that alternative fuel and electric cars can freely circulate everywhere. Furthermore, we worktowards the emergence of a real modal split – rail, road, air – both for individuals as for freight.

– Climate change : through table-top simulations, the Benelux Union analyzes the consequences of these phenomena, seeks cross-border solutions, concerning public health, transport and energy.

– Circular economy : extending the life of products not only saves raw materials and energy, and reduces waste. Plus we need a change of mentalities and education to sustainabledevelopment and to the principles of circularity play an important role.

Benelux cooperation looks towards the future. We aim at solving nowadays questions which have a transnational impact and strive for concrete results and durable achievements that have a direct impact on the prosperity and security of all our citizens.

Alain de Muyser, Deputy Secretary General of the Benelux Union.

– An agreement on the automatic recognition of higher education diplomas allows for a better mobility and an uniform level playing field for students and workers.

– An agreement on cross-border ambulance and emergency services saves lives and promotes the development ofmedical assistance without borders.

– An agreement on joint cross-border police operations reinforces the fight against organized crime and human trafficking.

– A decision on a Benelux digital consignment note pilot project facilitates road transport, reducing administrative work and savesup to € 300 million per year for Benelux freight carriers .

– A co-operation treaty allowing for common road inspectionsof freight carriers increases the security and safety of all road users, truck and car drivers,and promotes fairnessin between entrepreneurs.

And yet, the Benelux seems to be better known outside than within its own region, mainly due to the political weight of the Benelux and its engaged vocation to inspire and revive European integration, especially when centrifugal and populist forces threaten European solidarity and cohesion. Benelux seeks region-to-regioncooperation, be it with France and Germany or beyond with the Baltic States, the Nordic Council, the Visegrad countries, or even further.

Through its combined action, the Benelux Union plays a decisive role as a model for future European integration, and is the perfect laboratory to sustainably complete the EU single marketand strengthen the European areaof freedom, security and justice.

These are all some of the challenges that can find concrete answers at regional level and then serve and applied across the whole EU. That role is enshrined in the DNA of the Benelux Union since 60 years.

The Benelux still has a bright future ahead.


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