The Luxembourg presidency of the Benelux union officially kicked off on the 5th of February. The transitional Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg Customs Convention was signed on 5 September 1944 by the three governments-in-exile in London. Of all the organizations for economic cooperation created in the post-war period, Benelux is considered a precursor and a proving ground.
For its Presidency, the Foreign and European Affairs Minister, Jean Asselborn, presented Luxembourg’s perspective at the evening event held at the Abbaye de Neumunster, emphasizing in particular four priorities: energy transition and the fight against climate change, reinforcing the internal market and promoting digitalization. These priorities stem from the annual work plan for 2019 developed by the three countries last December. Luxembourg takes the reins from Belgium, and during the launch Minister Asselborn thanked Didier Reynders, Belgian deputy prime minister and foreign and European affairs minister, for “set[ting] the bar very high”.
Asselborn noted that 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Benelux agreement which initiated the union of the three countries. By 1951, the union had joined three other countries–France, Italy and West Germany–to become the European Coal and Steel Community, the early predecessor of what is today the EU.
The same EU is “currently going through a period in which there are many challenges: the rise of authoritarian populism and unilateral tendencies, the questioning of the rule of law, the harmful effects of climate change and economic and social challenges,” Asselborn said, also referencing the Brexit situation.
He added: “Benelux is a success story that is a model for cooperation among EU member states.”