Maintaining the Benelux’s new focus
‘The Netherlands looks back with satisfaction on the activities the Benelux organised this year during the Union’s Dutch presidency,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders after an introductory visit to the Benelux secretariat in Brussels. ‘This visit has shown that the Benelux is concerned with real issues,’ said the minister. ‘It is important that we maintain that focus.’
The minister spoke with Benelux Secretary-General Jan van Laarhoven, his deputies Luc Willems and Alain de Muyser and the staff of the secretariat. During its presidency this year, the Netherlands focused attention on three areas: fraudulent employment practices and social security fraud, labour mobility, and transport and logistics.
To help the logistics sector, the Benelux countries agreed this year that transport companies would be allowed to freely transport large shipping containers within Benelux borders by road without the need for special permits or arrangements. The decision places the Benelux a step ahead of the rest of Europe in this regard. ‘I am pleased with the Benelux’s pioneering work,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘It is on this sort of issue, for which no European policy has been drawn up yet and for which the Benelux seeks to go further than EU legislation, that the organisation clearly demonstrates its added value.’
Next year Belgium will take on the Benelux presidency. Mr Koenders stated that he hoped the organisation would continue to focus on a number of tangible issues. ‘This is what shows the Benelux’s worth,’ he said.
The Benelux was established in 1944 as a customs union, becoming an economic union in 1958. Since the 2008 revision of the original treaty, the Benelux Union cooperates on three areas: internal market and economy, sustainability, and justice and home affairs. The founding treaties of the EU recognise the special nature of the Benelux.