The Western European Union was the international organisation and military alliance that succeeded the Western Union after the 1954 amendment of the 1948 Treaty of Brussels.
The Treaty of Brussels was signed by the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands on 17 March 1948, establishing the Western Union, an intergovernmental defence alliance that also promoted economic, cultural and social collaboration.
Founding members of the organisation were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Later on Spain, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, Britain, and Norway joined them leaving Germany behind since it did not want to participate in any military organisation outside NATO.
In 1952 West Germany also joined but left again in 1955 following disagreements over French plans to rearm West Germany with nuclear weapons and Britain’s refusal to allow West German membership in NATO if it became a member of NATO’s European commander-in-chief
The WEU had two main bodies:
- Council: Formally the Political Committee, this was a cabinet-like body dealing with security policy, headed by the Secretary-General and composed of foreign ministers or their deputies;
- Assembly: This had an advisory role and included parliamentarians from both the Council and Commission.
The Western European Union tasks and institutions were gradually transferred to the European Union, providing central parts of the EU’s new military component, the European Common Security and Defence Policy.
The WEU was one of several European institutions that were merged into the European Union in 1993 to create a single EU diplomatic and defence structure.
In 2003, after much debate, the EU said it would replace the WEU with a new defence organization called the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The ESDP would be an EU body with its own defence policy. The WEU would continue to exist as an intergovernmental organization that coordinates military matters between member countries.
On 30 June 2011, the Western European Union was officially declared defunct.