London, United Kingdom
|Historical era||Cold War|
|21–25 February 1948|
|17 March 1948|
• WUDO established
|28 September 1948|
• Korean War breaks out
|25 June 1950|
• NATO absorbs WUDO
|23 October 1954|
|Today part of|| EU (CSDP)|
Council of Europe
Part of a series on the
|History of the
The Western Union (WU), also referred to as the Brussels Treaty Organisation (BTO), was the European military alliance established between France, the United Kingdom (UK) and the three Benelux countries in September 1948 in order to implement the Treaty of Brussels signed in March the same year.[Note 1] Under this treaty the signatories, referred to as the five powers, agreed to collaborate in the defence ﬁeld as well as in the political, economic and cultural ﬁelds.
During the Korean War (1950–1953), the headquarters, personnel and plans of the WU's defence arm, the Western Union Defence Organisation (WUDO), were transferred to the newly established North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), providing the nucleus of the European half of NATO's command structure, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. As a consequence of the failure of the European Defence Community in 1954, the London and Paris Conferences led to the Modified Treaty of Brussels (MTB) through which the Western Union was transformed into the Western European Union (WEU) and was joined by Italy and West Germany. As the WEU's functions were transferred to the European Union's (EU) European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) at the turn of the 21st century, the Western Union is a precursor of both NATO and the military arm of the EU.
In the aftermath of World War II there were fears of a renewal of German aggression, and on 4 March 1947 the Treaty of Dunkirk was signed by France and the United Kingdom as a Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance in the event of a possible attack.
In his speech to the House of Commons on 22 January 1948, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin called for the extension of the Treaty of Dunkirk to also include the Benelux countries, creating a Western Union. The object was to consolidate Western Europe to satisfy the United States and to give advance notice of the eventual incorporation of Italy, and then Germany, into the Treaty.
The negotiating conference was held on 4 March 1948, a few days after the coup in Prague; thanks to this, the three smaller countries were able to persuade the others to agree to the concept of automatic and immediate mutual assistance in the event of aggression, and to the idea of setting up a regional organisation (a multilateral alliance in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations).
The Western Union was intended to provide Western Europe with a bulwark against the communist threat and to bring greater collective security.
Main article: Treaty of Brussels
The Treaty of Brussels was signed on 17 March 1948 between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and was an expansion to the preceding year's defence pledge, the Dunkirk Treaty signed between Britain and France.
Although the Treaty goes no further than providing for 'cooperation' between the contracting parties, 'which will be effected through the Consultative Council referred to in Article VII as well as through other bodies', in practice the arrangement was referred to as Western Union or the Brussels Treaty Organisation.
When the division of Europe into two opposing camps became unavoidable, the threat of the U.S.S.R. became much more important than the threat of German rearmament. Western Europe, therefore, sought a new mutual defence pact involving the United States, a powerful military force for such an alliance. The United States, concerned with containing the influence of the U.S.S.R., was responsive. Secret meetings began by the end of March 1949 between American, Canadian and British officials to initiate the negotiations that led to the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949 in Washington, D.C.
The need to back up the commitments of the North Atlantic Treaty with appropriate political and military structures led to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). On 20 December 1950 the Consultative Council of the Brussels Treaty Powers decides to merge the military organisation of the Western Union into NATO. In December 1950, with the appointment of General Eisenhower as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the members of the Treaty of Brussels decided to transfer the headquarters, personnel, and plans of the Western Union Defence Organisation (WUDO) to NATO. NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) took over responsibility for the defence of Western Europe, while the physical headquarters in Fontainebleau were transformed into NATO's Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT). Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery resigned as Chairman of WUDO's Land, Naval and Air Commanders-in-Chief Committee on 31 March 1951 and took the position of Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) on 1 April 1951.
The establishment of NATO, along with the signing of a succession of treaties establishing the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (April 1948), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (April 1949), the Council of Europe (May 1949) and the European Coal and Steel Community (April 1951), left the Western Union and its founding Treaty of Brussels devoid of much of its authority.
Main article: Treaty of Brussels § Modification
The Western Union's founding Treaty of Brussels was amended at the 1954 Paris Conference as a result of the failure of the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC) to gain French ratification: The General Treaty (German: Deutschlandvertrag) of 1952 formally named the EDC as a prerequisite to the end of Allied occupation of Germany, and there was a desire to include Germany in the Western defence architecture. The Modified Brussels Treaty (MBT) transformed the Western Union into the Western European Union (WEU), at which point Italy and Germany were admitted. Although the WEU established by the MBT was significantly less powerful and ambitious than the original Western Union, German membership in the WEU was considered sufficient for the occupation of the country to end in accordance with the General Treaty.
Social and cultural aspects were handed to the Council of Europe to avoid duplication of responsibilities within Europe.
Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the so-called European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.
F: entry into force
de facto supersession
Rel. w/ EC/EU framework:
de facto inside
|European Union (EU)||[Cont.]|
|European Communities (EC)||(Pillar I)|
|European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom)||[Cont.]|
|/ / / European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)|
|European Economic Community (EEC)|
|Schengen Rules||European Community (EC)|
|'TREVI'||Justice and Home Affairs (JHA, pillar II)|
|North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)||[Cont.]||Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC, pillar II)|
|[Defence arm handed to NATO]||European Political Co-operation (EPC)||Common Foreign and Security Policy|
(CFSP, pillar III)
|Western Union (WU)||/ Western European Union (WEU)||[Tasks defined following the WEU's 1984 reactivation handed to the EU]|
|[Social, cultural tasks handed to CoE]||[Cont.]|
|Council of Europe (CoE)|
The Treaty of Brussels had cultural and social clauses, concepts for the setting up of a 'Consultative Council'. The basis for this was that a cooperation between Western nations would help stop the spread of Communism.
Main article: Western Union Defence Organisation
From April 1948, the member states of the Western Union decided to create a military agency under the name of the Western Union Defence Organisation (WUDO). WUDO was formally established on September 27–28, 1948.
The objective of WUDO was to provide for the coordination of defence between the five powers in the military and supply fields and for the study of the tactical problems of the defence of Western Europe; in addition, to provide a framework on which, in the event of any emergency, a command organization could be built up.
The Treaty of Brussels contained a mutual defence clause as set forth in Article IV:
Article V set forth the obligations of Brussels Pact members to cooperate with the United Nations Security Council to maintain international peace and security, and Article VI set forth the obligations of Brussels Pact members to not enter any third-party treaties that conflicted with the Treaty of Brussels.
Compiled by Dr. James A. Kuhlman, University of South Carolina, 1977; edited by Dr. Mark A. Cichock, University of Texas at Arlington.