Trade and Payments in Western Europe: A Study in Economic Cooperation, 1947-51

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
BENELUX

"BENELUX -- An Example of Unity in a Divided World" -- "Chemin vers l'Unite" -- "From Benelux via west European Union towards Closer Cooperation with the United States." This was the spirit in which people wrote about the first flowering of the proposed economic union of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. But for several years now, comment in this vein has been scarce. More frequently the headlines have been: "Benelux Delay," "Benelux Totters," "Benelux Foundering" and "New Difficulties in Benelux." Behind the shift in emphasis lies a major story of postwar economic cooperation.

Is Benelux "the light that failed"? Or does the persistence of the effort to complete the economic union despite vicissitudes show the vitality of the Benelux approach to cooperation? Time will tell, but meanwhile the experience of Benelux has provided unequaled demonstrations of some problems of international economic cooperation. There have been achievements -- but they fell short of what was attempted. There have been demonstrations of what can be done by governments working together -- but the main lessons concern the difficulties of breaking down the barriers between two national economies, of getting people to accept the practical consequencies of attractive principles. "Messieurs," said Paul Spaak, "il faut vouloir les consequences de ce qu'on veut."1 As they approached some of the consequences, the people of the Low Countries no longer seemed quite so sure they wanted the economic union that, as the postwar world dawned,

____________________
1
Quoted by F. A. G. Keesing, "Benelux," Amsterdamsche Bank N. V. -- Incasso Bank N. V., Quarterly Review, First Quarter 1951, 1-12, at 12.

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