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Western European Union

Western European Union
Union de l'Europe occidentale
Defensive alliance


Members • Associate members • Observers • Associate partners
Capital Brussels
Political structure International organisation
Historical era Cold War
 -  Treaty of Brussels 17 March 1948
 -  London and Paris Accords 21 October 1954
 -  Treaty of Lisbon 1 December 2009
 -  Abolition 30 June 2011
Today part of  European Union
Part of a series on the
History of the
European Union
EU enlargement between 1958 and 2013
European Union portal

The Western European Union (WEU; French: Union de l'Europe occidentale, UEO) was an international organisation and military alliance, tasked with implementing the Modified Treaty of Brussels (1954), an amended version of the original 1948 Treaty of Brussels. The WEU was established by seven European nations allied with the USA (Capitalist Bloc and NATO members) during the Cold War.

Since the end of the Cold War, WEU tasks and institutions have been gradually transferred to the Common Security and Defence Policy of the geographically larger and more comprehensive European Union. This process was completed in 2009, when a solidarity clause between the member states of the European Union which was similar (but not identical) to the WEU's mutual defence clause, entered into force with the Treaty of Lisbon. The states party to the Modified Treaty of Brussels consequently decided to terminate that treaty on 31 March 2010, with all the remaining WEU's activities to be ceased within 15 months. On 30 June 2011 the WEU was officially declared defunct.[1]


  • Organisation 1
    • Western European Armaments Group 1.1
    • Western European Armaments Organisation 1.2
    • Eurofor 1.3
  • Participating states 2
  • History 3
    • Treaty of Brussels 3.1
    • Western Union Defence Organization 3.2
    • Transfers to the EU 3.3
    • Abolition 3.4
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The WEU was headquartered in Brussels, with a staff of 65 and an annual budget of €13.4 million.[2] It was composed of the Council of the WEU (the Council) and the Assembly of the WEU (the Assembly).

The WEU was led by a Council of Ministers, assisted by a Permanent Representatives Council on the ambassadorial level. Social and cultural aspects of the Brussels Treaty were handed to the Council of Europe to avoid duplication of responsibilities within Europe.[3]

A Parliamentary Assembly (composed of the delegations of the member states to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) supervised the work of the Council, but it did not have any obligations on the Council. The Assembly of WEU was a consultative institution.

Western European Armaments Group

The Independent European Program Group (IEPG) was established as a forum for armaments cooperation in 1976 with the aim of creating a European Armaments Agency. Since 1993 the WEU armaments cooperation forum has been known as Western European Armaments Group (WEAG). Its membership reached 19 in 2000: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The body closed on 23 May 2005.[4]

Western European Armaments Organisation

The Western European Armaments Organisation (WEAO) was intended as an Armaments Agency but operations were limited to a research cell. It provided support services in defence research and technology. It was created in 1996, and closed in August 2006.[5] These agencies were taken over by the European Defence Agency. Other transferred bodies include the Institute for Security Studies and the Satellite Centre.


On 15 May 1995, the Council of Ministers of the WEU met in Lisbon. During this meeting a declaration of the creation of the European Operational Rapid Force (Eurofor) was made by France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Eurofor became operational in June 1998 as a task force of the Western European Union.[6]

Participating states

The Western European Union had 10 member countries, 6 associate member countries, 5 observer countries and 7 associate partner countries. On 14 June 2001, then-WEU President Solana stated that there was no foreseeable reason to change the status of the non member countries in the organisation.

Member countries: (modified Brussels Treaty - 1954)

All member countries of the WEU were also members of both NATO and the European Union. These are the only nations that had full voting rights.

Observer countries: (Rome - 1992)

Observer countries were members of the European Union, but not of NATO. 1

1 Denmark was an exception, being member of both. It has an opt-out from the Treaty of Maastricht (1992), so that it does not participate in the CSDP of the European Union. Thus in respect to the WEU it would have been more appropriate for it to be regarded as non-EU NATO member state (WEU associate status).

Associate member countries: (Rome - 1992)

Associate membership was created to include the European countries that were members of NATO but not of the European Union. Associate members Poland, the Czech Republic & Hungary joined the EU in 2004.

Associate partner countries: (Kirchberg - 1994)

Countries that at the time were part of neither NATO nor of the EU. All of the following nations joined both NATO and the EU by 2007.


The 9-star design that was used until 1993.

Treaty of Brussels

The Treaty of Brussels was signed by the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands on 17 March 1948. It was a mutual intergovernmental self-defence treaty which also promoted economic, cultural and social collaboration.

As a result of the failure of the European Defence Community on 23 October 1954 the WEU was established by the Paris Agreements with the incorporation of Italy and West Germany. On this occasion it was renamed the Western European Union. The signatories of the Paris Agreements clearly stated their three main objectives in the preamble to the modified Brussels Treaty:

  • To create in Western Europe a firm basis for European economic recovery;
  • To afford assistance to each other in resisting any policy of aggression;
  • To promote the unity and encourage the progressive integration of Europe.

The defence efforts resulting from the Brussels Treaty took form as the Western Union Defence Organisation (see below).

The Brussels Pact 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.

In force
Brussels Treaty
Paris Treaty
Modified Brussels Treaty
Rome treaties
Merger Treaty
European Council conclusion
Schengen Treaty
Single European Act
Maastricht Treaty
Amsterdam Treaty
Nice Treaty
Lisbon Treaty
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities:  
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)   
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC)
        Schengen Rules   European Community (EC)
    TREVI Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)  
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
          European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Unconsolidated bodies Western European Union (WEU)    
Treaty terminated in 2011  

Western Union Defence Organization

Transfers to the EU

Originally, under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).[7]

For example, on 1 January 2002, the WEU's Security Studies Institute and the Satellite Centre were transferred to the EU and became the European Union Institute for Security Studies and the European Union Satellite Centre. Notably, the role given to the WEU in the Amsterdam Treaty, was removed by the Nice Treaty. The European Constitution was to have given the role of collective defence to NATO. The Treaty of Lisbon has provisions for cooperation between the EU and both NATO (including the Berlin Plus agreement) and the WEU.[8][9] However the defence commitment, of Article 4 of the Brussels Treaty, has not been subsumed.[10] Article 42(7) of the Treaty of the European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon, could be viewed as incorporating that defence commitment into the EU framework.[11]

A summary of some of the moves towards a merger of the WEU into the EU:

With the transfer of responsibilities, the WEU's Parliamentary assembly was urged to dissolve itself, as it had a mandate to supervise WEU politics, not the EU's CSDP politics. But the Assembly saw itself as playing an important role, particularly with greater right of scrutiny, membership, experience and expertise in defence policy. Therefore, it renamed itself the "Interim European Security and Defence Assembly" and urged the European Convention to include it as a second chamber within the EU's institutional framework. Hence it argued it could effectively scrutinise the CSDP, help improve EU-NATO relations and be more suited, being composed of national parliamentarians, to the intergovernmental style of the CSDP.

However with the European Constitution aiming to streamline and simplify the EU's foreign policy, for example combining the two main foreign policy posts, it was not seen as wise to then create a separate double legislature for the CFSP, instead, the European Parliament was granted greater scrutiny over foreign policy.[12]


In 2009, the

  • WEU official web site
  • Historical fonds of the Western European Union at the Historical Archives of the EU in Florence
  • Frozen version of the WEU Assembly's website
  • History of NATO – the Atlantic Alliance - UK Government site
  • WEU evolution: The presentation of the Eurocorps-Foreign Legion concept at the European Parliament in June 2003

External links

  1. ^ a b Statement of the Presidency of the Permanent Council of the WEU on behalf of the High Contracting Parties to the Modified Brussels Treaty – Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, WEU 31 March 2010
  2. ^ a b Rettman, Andrew (3 September 2009) European defence league poised for debate on dormant pact, EU Observer accessed 3 September 2009
  3. ^ The Western European Union On CVCE website
  4. ^ WEAG website
  5. ^ WEAO Website
  6. ^ Eurofor
  7. ^ Marseille Declaration 2000
  9. ^ Western European Union (WEU)
  10. ^ EU Security Policy & the Role of the European Commission
  11. ^ House of Lords - European Union - Tenth Report
  12. ^ Occasional Paper n.57: The democratic legitimacy of the European Security and Defence Policy European Union Institute for Security Studies, April 2005
  13. ^ "Announcements - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  14. ^ "diplo - Startseite - HTTP Status 404" (in Deutsch). Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  15. ^ [1]


See also

On 30 June 2011 the WEU officially ceased to exist. [15]

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