Joseph Bech was the Luxembourgish politician that helped set up the
European Coal and Steel Community in the early 1950s and a leading
architect behind European integration in the later 1950s.
It was a joint memorandum from the Benelux countries that led to the
convening of the Messina Conference in June 1955, paving the way for the
European Economic Community.
Bech’s experience of living in Luxembourg during the two World Wars made him
understand how powerless such a small state could be, isolated between two
powerful neighbours. This led him to realise the importance of internationalism
and cooperation between states if a stable and prosperous Europe were to
be achieved. He helped to set up the Benelux union between Belgium, the
Netherlands and Luxembourg, an experience which proved to be of great benefit when the European
institutions were developed. The process of forming this union between the three small states has
since been considered a prototype for the European Union itself.