Western European Union

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Western European Union (WEU). This international security organization was initiated on 6 May 1955 when the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy joined the existing Brussels Treaty Organization. This was a consequence of the refusal of the French National Assembly to ratify the European Defence Community plan (EDC). The collapse of the plan was in part due to the British government's refusal to take part in supranational (as opposed to intergovernmental) security organizations, and the emergence of the WEU can be seen as a fulfilment of British goals. The pledge made by Britain to maintain troops in Europe in peacetime was a major innovation in foreign policy.

NATO remained the primary West European security organization, but from 1958 to 1973 the WEU structure allowed the British government to consult with the six WEU states that had formed the EEC without involving other NATO members. Following British accession to the EEC, ministerial meetings of the WEU ceased. The organization was reactivated from 1984 to strengthen European influence within NATO and to promote EC foreign policy co-ordination (European Political Cooperation, EPC). Britain was among the states that prevented the integration of WEU into the European Union's supranational structure, instead confirming it as an intergovernmental institution in the Maastricht treaty. The WEU played a prominent role in the Bosnian crisis in the 1990s.

Christopher N. Lanigan

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Western European Union (WEU), European security and defense organization. It was set up in Brussels in 1955 as a defensive, economic, social, and cultural organization, consisting of Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands; Portugal and Spain became members in 1988, and Greece joined in 1995. After France had refused to ratify a treaty providing for a European Defense Community, the WEU was created as a substitute solution embodied in the Paris Pacts. Since Western military cooperation had been dominated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Western economic coordination by the European Economic Community and later the European Free Trade Association, the primary function of the WEU was to supervise the rearmament of Germany, as provided for under the Paris Pacts. In 1960, the WEU transferred its cultural and social activities to the Council of Europe. Under the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the WEU was envisioned as the future military arm of the European Union (EU); it remained institutionally autonomous. In 1995 the Eurocorps, a joint force drawn from some of the WEU members, became operational. An additional 18 nations from central Europe, NATO, and/or the EU joined the WEU as associate members, observers, or associate partners in the 1990s. In 1999 the EU voted to absorb all the functions of the WEU in preparation for making the EU a defensive and peacekeeping military organization as well as a social and economic one.

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Western European Union (WEU) Defence alliance consisting of most of the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).