Western European Union

Western European Union

Western European Union

Introduction to Western European Union

Western European Union (WEU), association of European countries focused on defense and security issues. The WEU grew out of the Brussels Treaty, a cooperative agreement made in 1948 between the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The treaty was amended and modified in 1954, creating the WEU, at which time Italy and West Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany) joined the organization. Portugal and Spain were admitted in 1988, Greece in 1995. The original aims of the union as established in the Brussels Treaty were collaboration in economic, social, and cultural matters, and collective self-defense.

Many of the original functions of the WEU were transferred to other organizations. Almost immediately after the WEU’s creation, its military and defense operations were incorporated into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Most of the WEU’s economic activities are now handled by the European Union (EU), and cultural and social activities were transferred to the Council of Europe in 1960. From that point up until the 1980s, the organization was essentially inactive.

In the 1980s the WEU began to create a new role for itself as a forum to harmonize members’ views on defense and disarmament, East-West relations, and the Atlantic alliance. Its role was further enlarged in 1992 by the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty) that created the EU. The Maastricht Treaty incorporated the WEU as the security arm of the European Union. Since that time, the WEU has strengthened its relations with NATO, and the EU and has begun to take back from NATO some responsibility for European defense planning. With NATO assistance, the WEU has conducted military exercises and increased its operational capability and readiness to perform as the defense arm of the EU.

The principal administrative body of the WEU is a council, which is divided into two parts. The Council of Ministers is made up of the foreign and defense ministers of the ten member nations and meets twice a year. The Permanent Council, which is responsible for the everyday affairs of the WEU, is composed of appointed representatives of the member states and usually meets weekly. Assisting the council are several permanent agencies and committees. The WEU has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.” (1)

Western European Union and the European Union


See Also

  • WEU


Notes and References

  • Information about Western European Union in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  • Guide to Western European Union

    More Topics about the European Union

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