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The Benelux is a union in Western Europe that comprises three neighbouring countries, Belgiummarker, the Netherlandsmarker, and Luxembourgmarker (België/Belgique/Belgien - Les Pays Bas/Nederland/Die Niederlande - Lëtzebuerg/Luxembourg/Luxemburg), which lie in the north western European region between Francemarker and Germanymarker. The 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 it was coined somewhat earlier, in August 1946, by that newspaper's correspondent in Belgium. However, 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 earliest version of the modern European Union.


A Benelux Parliament (originally referred to as 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 Luxembourgish parliament.

In 1944, 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 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 and came into force in 1960 to promote the free movement of workers, capital, service, and good in the region. Its secretariat-general is located in Brusselsmarker. The unification of the law of the three Benelux countries is mainly achieved by regulations of its Council of Ministers, that only bind the three states, but are not directly applicable in their internal legal orders. There is also a large number of Benelux conventions in a wide range of subject matters.


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 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 Haguemarker. In 2005, they concluded a treaty establishing a Benelux Organisation for Intellectual Property which replaced both offices upon its entry into force on September 1, 2006.

Geography, demographics and languages

Out of the total of about 27.7 million people living in the member states, 22.61 million (82%) live in the Netherlandsmarker or the Flemish Regionmarker, where Dutch is the sole official language (though Frisian is an official language in Friesland). The officially French-speaking Walloon Regionmarker has 3.5 million inhabitants (12.5%), while a majority of the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker (3.8%) —although officially bilingual French-Dutch— is also Francophone. Luxembourgmarker (1.74%) is officially trilingual with Luxembourgish as a "national language", the latter being a standardised High German dialect. Combined with the German-speaking Community of Belgium, this adds up to an estimated 2% of native German-speakers.

Although it is not an official language of the Benelux and its institutions, Belgium and Luxembourg recognise German as one of the official national languages. In Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands, Frisian is co-official with Dutch.

The Benelux region has a total population of about 27,725,734 and occupies an area of approximately . Thus, the Benelux has a population density of 371/km² (958/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 establishing the Benelux Economic Union will expire in 2010. It will be replaced by a new legal framework, which has been signed on June 17, 2008. 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 name of the "Benelux economic union" will change to Benelux union to reflect this broader scope.

See also


External links

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