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Joseph Marie Antoine Hubert Luns

(b. 1911)


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(b. Rotterdam, 28 Aug. 1911; d. Brussels, 17 July 2002)

Netherlandish; Foreign Minister 1956–71, Secretary-General of NATO 1971–84 After attending secondary schools in Rotterdam and Brussels, Luns studied law in Leiden and Amsterdam. In preparation for a diplomatic career he took a course on political economy in London, and on diplomacy in Berlin.

In 1938 he was appointed to a post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. He was attaché in Berne (1940–1) and in Lisbon (1941–2), being promoted to Second Secretary (1942–3). He was transferred to London in 1943, where he stayed till 1949. From 1944 he was First Secretary at the Dutch Embassy. He became a Permanent Delegate to the United Nations (New York, 1949–52). In 1952 the Catholic party (KVP) pressed for his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Prime Minister Drees resisted the appointment of a Catholic Minister of Foreign Affairs (all other five states in what was sometimes called l'Europe Vaticane having Catholic foreign ministers at the time). He favoured instead the appointment of J. W. Beijen, a non-party diplomat and financier. A compromise was reached in which Beijen became Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of Europe and multilateral relations, Luns as Minister without Portfolio in charge of Benelux, bilateral affairs, and the United Nations. In 1956 this odd situation of two Ministers of Foreign Affairs ended, with Luns serving as the sole Minister of Foreign Affairs until 1971.

One of the main problems Luns faced as Foreign Minister was negotiations with Indonesia concerning New Guinea, which had not been transferred to Indonesian rule in December 1949. Luns was strongly against the transfer of this territory which had been promised the right to self-determination. Eventually he had to give in when the expected military support of the USA in case of an armed confrontation failed to materialize. After the transfer of the territory in 1962, relations with Indonesia (which had broken down in 1960) were restored.

Luns contributed to the establishment of the EEC in 1957. He became a substantial force opposing de Gaulle's wish for an Europe des Nations under French leadership, insisting on the need to involve Britain as a member of the European Communities, and advocating a greater degree of supranationality in EEC matters. He resigned as Foreign Minister in 1971, after the longest uninterrupted period of any Dutch minister in that position, to take up the post of Secretary-General of NATO. He remained at NATO until 1984, during which time he encouraged member states to increase defence spending and supported the siting of US cruise missiles in Europe, a move opposed particularly strongly in his own country. He was succeeded by Peter Carington.

Subjects: Politics.


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