The Benelux is an economic union in Western Europe comprising three neighbouring monarchies, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, which lie in the north western European region between France and Germany. The name is formed from the beginning of each country's name, and was created for the Benelux Customs Union, but is now used in a more generic way. The Benelux region has a total population of about 27,562,217 and occupies an area of approximately 74,640 km² (28,819 sq mi). Thus, the Benelux has a population density of 369 /km² (956 /sq mi).
The treaty establishing the Benelux Customs Union was signed on September 5, 1944 by the governments in exile of the three countries in London, and entered into force in 1948. It ceased to exist on November 1, 1960, when it was replaced by the Benelux Economic Union after a treaty signed in The Hague on February 3, 1958. It was preceded by the (still existent) Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, established on July 25, 1921.
Its founding contributed to the founding of the European Union (EU), though the immediate precursors to the EU were founded later (the ECSC in 1951 and the EEC in 1957). The three countries were also founding members of these organizations, together with West Germany, France, and Italy. Article 306 of the EC Treaty stipulates that The provisions of this Treaty shall not preclude the existence or completion of regional unions between Belgium and Luxembourg, or between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, to the extent that the objectives of these regional unions are not attained by application of this Treaty. This article remained unaltered as Article IV-441 of the European Constitution.
A Benelux Parliament (originally referred to as Interparliamentary Consultative Council) was created in 1955. This parliamentary assembly is composed of 21 members of the Dutch parliament, 21 members of the Belgian national and regional parliaments, and 7 members of the Luxembourgish parliament.
The treaty establishing the Benelux Economic Union (Benelux Economische Unie/Union Économique Benelux) was signed in 1958 and came into force in 1960 to promote the free movement of workers, capital, services, and goods in the region. Its secretariat-general is located in Brussels. The unification of the law of the three Benelux countries is mainly achieved by regulations of its Council of Ministers, that only bind the three States, but are not directly applicable in their internal legal orders. There is also a large number of Benelux conventions in a wide range of subject matters.