Regional economic organisations and regional cooperation

The Directorate of European affairs and international economic relations (DII) defines and represents regional economic policy within organisations such as the Belgium–Luxembourg Economic Union (UEBL), Benelux or the Greater Region. D II also coordinates, in close consultation with the departmental unit responsible for the Greater Region, bilateral relations with Luxembourg’s three neighbouring countries within the context of the Greater Region.

Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union

In the wake of the First World War and the dissolution of the Zollverein in 1919, Luxembourg was looking for a new economic partner. After various ups and downs, a customs and monetary agreement was signed with Belgium. This Convention, creating the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union (Union économique belgo-luxembourgeoise - UEBL), was signed in 1921 and came into force on 6 March 1922.

On 23 May 1935, the Convention was complemented by three other conventions that were amended in 1963: (a) the convention on financial and monetary matters, (b) the convention setting up a common regime for deregulating imports, exports and transit; (c) the convention establishing a special revenue regime for excise duties for alcohol. In 1963, the provisions of the UEBL were revised to take account of the entry into force of the EEC and of the Benelux.

 
The UEBL Convention was amended in Brussels on 18 December 2002 and approved by the Law of 27 May 2004 (Gazette A no. 89 of 17.06.2004), authorising Luxembourg and Belgium to extend their collaboration beyond purely economic and monetary spheres. The revised Convention thus offered the necessary framework for enhanced political and administrative cooperation, in particular in the customs and excise, justice, citizens’ security and health arenas.

The Commission administrative belgo-luxembourgeoise (Belgium-Luxembourg Administrative Commission) (CABL) keeps track of issues and prepares the meetings at ministerial level. The CABL, which, as a rule, meets twice a year, is the UEBL’s principal executive mechanism, ensuring collaboration between the two administrations. Traditionally, the following items appear on the agenda of each of its meetings: the UEBL’s economic situation, cooperation on international relations and bilateral, including cross-border, issues. 

The CABL is also responsible for preparing bilateral meetings at the so-called “Gäichel” summit, during which the Belgian and Luxembourg governments organise a joint Cabinet meeting, convening ministers with an active involvement in bilateral or international cooperation.

Benelux

It was during their shared exile in London during the Second World War that the governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg took the first steps towards enhanced cooperation. On 5 September 1944, this ambition culminated in the signing of the customs convention with the aim of creating a customs union. This initiative was followed up with the monetary convention of 21 October 1943, which fixed the exchange rate between the Belgo-Luxembourg franc and the Dutch florin. The Benelux customs union came into force on 1 January 1948.

The Benelux economic union was established by the Treaty of 3 February 1958 for an initial term of fifty years, aiming to to extend and deepen the economic co-operation between the three countries, in particular by enabling them to adopt common financial and social policies. The treaty establishing the Benelux economic union came into force on 1 November 1960.

The Benelux thus played a pioneering role in increasing European co-operation. Indeed, certain areas of cooperation initiated by the 1958 Treaty were so successful that their application was extended to the European level. This is particularly the case for the free movement of persons (Schengen), the internal market (economic union) and police co-operation.

In light of the expiry of the 1958 Treaty in 2010, and to lend fresh impetus to Benelux cooperation, the government of the three countries resolved to amend the 1958 Treaty. On 17 June 2008, the Treaty revising the Treaty of 1958 was signed in The Hague. It was set forth that the Benelux cooperation would focus on three main topics, namely the internal market and economic union, sustainable development and justice and domestic affairs. Beyond pursuing Benelux cooperation as a laboratory for Europe, the new Benelux Treaty also confers on Benelux the ability to extend cross-border cooperation by concluding agreements with other countries or regional groups of countries, or with regions or entities neighbouring Benelux. Finally, the Benelux Economic Union became the Benelux Union. The renewed Benelux Treaty of 2010 was approved by the law of 4 June 2009.

In 2016, for the second time since the new Benelux treaty came into force in 2012, Luxembourg took over the presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Benelux Union. In the context of implementing the Benelux Union’s 2016 work programme, the Luxembourgish presidency of the Committee of Ministers placed special emphasis on mobility and security of persons, promoting environmental protection and on deepening the internal market of the Benelux. The Luxembourg Presidency also strengthened cooperation between the Benelux countries in the foreign policy sphere. In a union of 28 member states, this strategic collaboration is assuming increasing importance in preparing decisions and defending its interests.

More information: www.benelux.int/fr

Greater Region

The Greater Region comprises Wallonia, the Saarland and the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Lorraine in France. In Belgium, Wallonia, the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles - FWB) and the German-speaking community are full members of this partnership. The Greater Region covers an area of 65,401 km² and is home to 11.4 million inhabitants. A historical, cultural and linguistic crossroads, the Greater Region aspires to be a model at the heart of Europe today: the living embodiment of a Europe without borders, rich in collaborative endeavours, interactions and sharing.

With a GDP of 317.8 billion Euros (2010), representing around 2.5% of the 28-country European Union’s GDP, the Greater Region is an urban, industrial and rural network, a rich and permanent source of economic and cultural relations. This space is criss-crossed by continuous flows of cross-border workers and consumers. Not less than 200,000 Greater Region workers travel from one country to another every day, 170,000 of them to Luxembourg alone.

Given these movements, cross-border co-operation within this space is a veritable source of wealth and the foundation of its development, both in the economic and institutional spheres and in terms of civil society.  For almost thirty years now, institutionalisation has become particularly manifest in achieving concrete outcomes in terms of integration of the cross-border employment market, training, mobility, social cohesion, multilingualism, cultural dissemination and interculturality.

Since 1st January 2018 and for a term of two years, Luxembourg is assuming the 16th Presidency of the Summit of the Greater Region. The departmental unit for the Greater Region at the Ministry for Family Affairs, Integration and for the Greater Region is responsible for institutionalised cooperation within the Greater Region. For its part, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, in close consultation with the Department for the Greater Region, is responsible for the general coordination of bilateral relations with the three neighbouring countries and their respective federal or regional entities.

For more information: http://www.granderegion.net

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