Benelux is a union of three sovereign States: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In 1958, these three States decided to create the Benelux alliance to be able to compete financially against more powerful neighboring States, to protect each of their own interests as well as to enlarge their cross-border cooperation.
Benelux Treaty Establishing the Benelux Union
The Benelux Treaty Establishing the Benelux Economic Union (Benelux Treaty) is the legal document that created the union between the three States. According to the Treaty, Benelux established a new coordination of economic, financial and social policies and legislations applicable to the three States. It also created relevant institutions that would act in its name: the Committee of Ministers, the Council, the Committees and the Special Committees; the General Secretariat; the Interparliamentary Consultative Council, the Economic and Social Advisory Council, the Council of the Economic Union and the College of Arbitrators. Recommendations made by the Committee of Ministers can be transposed into national legislations of the three States and reflected into the Conventions (see below for more details). Despite the creation of these supranational bodies, there is no full transfer of the exercise of legislative powers in a supranational sense. Depending on the legal instrument that is used, there are some measures that do not automatically bind the member States.
Benelux Legal Instruments
There are four types of instruments that ensure a full application of the Benelux Treaty.
Decisions: The Committee of Ministers has the competence to promulgate decisions in restricted fields, which are enumerated in the Benelux Treaty as well as in the Conventions. As soon as a decision is adopted by the Committee of Ministers it becomes binding on the three governments. However, decisions must be transposed into national law in order to be applicable to the citizens of the Benelux States.
Conventions: According to the Benelux Treaty, the Committee of Ministers can establish Conventions. These Conventions are submitted for approval to the national parliaments of the three States and once approved, they become legally binding on the Benelux States.
Recommendations: The Committee of Ministers can also issue Recommendations on certain topics related to the functioning of Benelux. These Recommendations are not legally binding but the three States should take into account the Recommendations into their national legislation.
Directives: The Council of Economic Union and the General Secretariat can analyze directives given to them by the Committee of Ministers.
The subject matters of the Benelux instruments can be quite diverse: international public law, investments, trade, immunities and intellectual property. These instruments are used as a way to facilitate cohesion and uniformity of the laws between the three States. Each new decision or convention is approved according to the national procedures in the three States and they become legally binding on citizens only when the State formally integrates the change into its national legislation.
There is also a judicial body common to the Benelux States; the Benelux Court of Justice. This Court ensures the uniformity of the legal framework that is common to the three States of Benelux.
The Benelux Convention concerning Intellectual Property (IP)
The Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property (Trademarks and Designs) (BCIP) fulfils the role of a joint legal framework in the fields of trademarks and designs for Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The BCIP sets out the main responsibilities of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) and its different executive bodies. The BOIP works closely with national IP offices to ensure the implementation of IP legislations as well as to promote the protection of trademarks and designs within Benelux. The Executive Board and the Director General of BOIP are charged with making recommendations concerning amendments to the Committee of Ministers. This Committee will either make the amendment right away, if it is necessary for compliance with international regulations, or it will suggest the amendment to the three States for approval. The filing, registration or renewal of trademarks or designs can be done either with BOIP, one of the Benelux national IP offices or the World Intellectual Property Organization.