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Johan Willem Beyen: a plan for a common market

Life and times

In the mid-1950s, when Beyen was developing his proposal for a customs union, he understood the difficulty of convincing reluctant forces in his native Netherlands, and elsewhere in Europe, to further integrate. Many leaders were wary of further integration after the European Coal and Steel Community was created, especially in terms of the economy. Yet Beyen persisted; he believed that the time was right to push for even greater cooperation between European nations.

A vision for Europe

Beyen’s plan revolved around the concept that greater economic cooperation was necessary, not just in the field of coal and steel. A common market for everything was needed, along the lines of the Benelux agreement signed between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1944. Presenting the ‘Beyen Plan’ at the Messina Conference in 1955, he sold the idea that political unity could not be achieved without a common market with some common responsibility for economic and social policy. In the end, as a result of the plan being accepted, six countries signed the Treaties of Rome in March 1957, creating the European Economic Community and Euratom.

From the Messina Conference to the Treaties of Rome

Publications

More about Johan Willem Beyen’s life, work and contribution to the European project