The Benelux is looking for regional cooperation, whether with France and Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia) or beyond with the Baltic States, the Nordic Council, the Visegrad countries or even further afield. In 2018, a new political declaration between Benelux and North Rhine-Westphalia was adopted to give new impetus to cooperation. In July 1953, they agreed on a protocol for the coordination of economic and social policy. A few months later, a second protocol on a common commercial policy promoted a common import/export policy towards third countries. The Benelux then began to participate as an independent entity within the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC). Gradually, the three partners learned to speak with one voice and to represent common positions on international issues. On 1 January 1948, the Benelux Customs Union enters into force. In a very difficult post-war economic climate, the Benelux Conventions offered the three signatories barrier-free trade. But the implementation of the conventions has not always been easy. Difficulties have arisen between the three governments, in particular because of their conflicting views on European cooperation, their attitude towards Germany and the use of the aid provided by the Marshall Plan. The delicate negotiations between the three partners revealed the difficulties of forging an economic union between states that had different economic structures and national interests after the war. We, the Prime Ministers of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, firmly believe that a united European Union is essential to find answers to our common challenges.
Especially if we want the EU to remain a source of prosperity and well-being for our citizens. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, our goal is to overcome this crisis together, achieve a sustainable recovery for our economy, society and people, and emerge stronger from the crisis. The Benelux Partnership continues to play a key role in setting a good example in finding solutions to cross-border problems for the benefit of our countries, citizens and businesses. The four instruments require the unanimous approval of the members of the Committee of Ministers (and, in the case of agreements, subsequent signature and ratification at national level). For more than 75 years, security, prosperity and freedom in the European context have been the cornerstones of close cooperation between the Benelux countries. The current COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with major challenges, including with regard to these fundamental European values. However, the current crisis is also an opportunity for Europe to demonstrate to its citizens the value of close cooperation between its neighbours in times of crisis and growing uncertainty. The Benelux countries will continue to work with each other, with neighbouring countries and international partners to pave the way for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, e.B. through cross-border cooperation in the field of education for sustainable development, in order to help build a more resilient society better equipped to meet the new environmental challenges of tomorrow. We would like to stress the importance we attach to close cooperation between the Benelux countries, especially in these difficult times.
We also appreciate the tireless work of the Benelux Parliament. We particularly appreciate the contacts they have with other national and regional parliaments, which we encourage to continue. As a Benelux country, we will continue to work closely together within the Benelux Union, but also as founding members within the European Union and as members of the European Union worldwide. .