Volume #15 - 1000.|
EUROPE, THE SOVIET UNION AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Memorandum front Under‑Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Prime Minister
September 28th, 1950|
VISIT OF THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF BELGIUM|
Dr. Paul Van Zeeland became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belgium when The Parti Social Chrétien (P.S.C.) and the Liberal Party finally succeeded in forming a government under M. Eyskens, after a governmental interregnum of nearly six weeks, following the elections in June of this year. The government represents an uneasy combination of these two right‑centre parties, and our Embassy in Brussels predicts that it is not likely to be very long‑lasting. The Socialists under M. Spaak, have gone into opposition,
Dr. Van Zeeland, who is a member of the P.S.C., is 56 years of age and has held many posts in pre‑war Belgian cabinets. He was Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in 1935, and Prime Minister in 1936, when M. Spaak became Foreign Minister for the first time. A doctor of political science, former professor at Louvain, vice‑governor of the Banque Nationale de Belgique and deputy director of the Bank for International Settlements, he is particularly interested in, and qualified to deal with, questions of international trade, and before the war he attended most of the important international conferences dealing with this subject, including the Conference of Stresa in 1932. He is the author of a number of books, including: "La Reforme bancaire aux États‑Unis de 1913‑21"; "Regards sur le plan quinquennal, 1931"; "Report to the Governments of England and France on the possibility of obtaining a general reduction of obstacles to international trade", 1938.
While Dr. Van Zeeland will probably wish to confine the conversation to a general discussion of the international situation, you may wish to consider the following points in talks with him:
I. Benelux Customs Union.
For a number of reasons the progress towards complete economic union has been slowed down recently, and pre‑union, which was to start on July 1, has been delayed. Mr. Dupuy has reported that the Netherlands Foreign Minister was of the opinion that the presence of Dr. Van Zeeland in the Belgian Foreign Ministry might make the problem that much more difficult. He considered that Benelux was a political problem, as did M. Spank. The latter always encountered serious opposition from the Banque de Bruxelles, with which Van Zeeland has had close relations. He thought it possible Van Zeeland might share their view that Benelux was a technical problem, and proceed with caution on that basis.
It might be useful to ask Dr. Van Zeeland for his estimate of the chances of success of the Benelux Economic Union, and in particular his views on the manner of approach required.
2. European Political and Economic Co‑operation.
Dr. Van Zeeland has played a prominent role in the right‑wing of the European unity movement, and his past record indicates that he is a good "European". It would be useful to have his impressions of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, and in particular his views as to whether it is moving too fast in directions not too clearly thought out; whether a European spirit does seem to be emerging; and whether the superficial progress achieved may not blind us to the essential fact that Europe as a unity still does not exist, politically or economically.
In view of the leading part taken by Belgium in the evolution of the Council of Europe, and of Western Union, Dr. Van Zeeland might be asked how he envisages the integration of the non‑military aspects of the latter with the larger European organization. 1 do not believe any of the economic, financial or social and cultural committees of Western Union have met for some time, while the Council of Europe has indicated its intention of entering these fields. Is there, in Dr. Van Zeeland's view any danger of the Council of Europe duplicating cultural and economic organizations already put in hand by the United Nations or its specialized agencies?
While Dr. Van Zeeland has not participated actively in the negotiations leading up to O.E.E.C., or in its administration, his views on recent developments should be particularly valuable because of his reputation as an economist, and of course in view of the key role Belgium has in European recovery.
3. Belgium and Germany.
It would be very valuable to have Dr. Van Zeeland's views on recent developments in Western Germany, and in particular on the manifestations of the rebirth of nationalism shown in the recent elections; and on the probability of increasing German competition in manufacturing and industry. You might also wish to ask for his views on the International Ruhr Authority, and whether he would be opposed under any circumstances to Soviet participation. Finally, he might be asked for his opinion on Germany's joining the Council of Europe, and German participation in other international conferences.
4. Negotiations for Reciprocal Modifications in Visa Requirements.
Canada has proposed an agreement of this nature with Belgium and negotiations are now proceeding. We have suggested that we would issue visas free to Belgian citizens for visits of up to twelve months in duration, these visas to be issued only in Brussels. In return we would wish the Belgians to permit Canadian visitors to enter Belgium without a visa for a period of up to two months. The reason for the delay in negotiating the agreement is the Belgian insistence that Canadian visas should be issued anywhere, not only in Brussels.
It is not considered worth‑while raising this question with Dr. Van Zeeland, but this note is included in case he should take up the matter with you. The reason for our desire to have Canadian visas issued only in Brussels is to permit at least a minimum of security check to be made on the applicants.1
1Ce rapport aux missions, à la suite de la visite de Van Zeeland, consistail en des coupures de journaux et des copies d'une lettre de Van Zeeland au premier ministre du Canada.