From the Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty
Edited by Maurizio Carbone
Chapter 9: The Benelux Countries: How Politicization Upset a Pro-integration Coalition
9. The Benelux countries: how politicization upset a prointegration coalition Peter Bursens and Ben Crum INTRODUCTION In analyses of European Union (EU) Member States, the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – are often lumped together. Such an approach appears to be justified because of the structural similarities between the three countries. They are geographically concentrated on the west flank of the EU, have closely connected histories and are small and open economies, highly dependent on international trade. They are also relatively small states which, left to themselves, are unlikely to make their mark on international politics. Hence, all three rely on international cooperation to provide for their international security and economic prosperity. These shared features serve to account for similar positions towards European cooperation. Together, the three Benelux countries have been at the forefront of European integration. In fact, the Benelux Treaty, which originates from 1944 and was renewed in 2008, can be seen as a precursor of European integration. As such, the three countries were among the founding fathers of the European Communities in the 1950s. Up to today they are ‘full members’ of the EU without invoking any opt-outs and always involved in avant garde initiatives like the Schengen cooperation and the single currency. In addition the three peoples have expressed continuous support for their country’s EU membership, topping the Eurobarometer rankings before, during and after the constitutional process (see Table 9.1). Such an understanding of the natural convergence of preferences for European integration due to structural...
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