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The Benelux Union, also known as simply Benelux, is a politico-economic union and formal international intergovernmental cooperation of three neighboring states in western Europe: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Overview

Pretty much everyone speaks English in all three countries even if there are regional differences and the odd local word or two. The people are usually polite to foreigners, Germans excepted, and most will respond favourably to any attempt to speak their language, more often than not replying in English. As the EC uses the Eurodollar, currency is not a problem in any of these countries, but attempting to use foreign currency anywhere but Luxembourg can lead to police visit. This has repercussions for the innocent tourist so our advice is be sure of what you're trying to pay with.

Travelling from the north the terrain goes from flat and boring in The Netherlands, to totally-hilly Luxembourg with Belgium having both plains and hills and even the occasional mountain. The rail and road links through all three countries is very good and well maintained even though European policy is to persuade people onto the public transport systems. The countryside you travel through is for the most part nondescript as all three countries are desperately short of living space in spite of the declining populations. This is due to the changes in physical size of The Netherlands and the amount of land in Belgium that is being used by the EC machine. Luxembourg has always been short of living space and with the success of its financial institutions it has attracted a lot corporate personnel to swell the population to record proportions.[1]

Netherlands

The Netherlands has been forced to abandon some of it's land to the rising sea level and retreat behind higher and thicker sea walls to save the rest of it's vulnerable coastlines. In the Zeeland area this meant the sea walls moved inland and the outlying land was abandoned. As the sea reclaimed this land lots of small islands and sandbanks were created making that area dangerous to anything bigger than rowboats or hovercraft. Needless to say the smugglers like this area and many packages enter Europe over a seawall. As the Dutch lost land in one area they continued their reclamation of the north and now the entire area inland of the Afsluit Dyke is dry and almost totally built over. In fact, the whole western area of the country is one big urban complex with a large industrial port at its southern end. Most of the Netherlands bulk trade and all of its fuel, enter through this port and accordingly, security is heavy. The rest of the country is taken up with producing food and flowers for the export market. As the flowers are luxury items the Dutch government puts a lot of resources into maintaining this highly profitable trade.[1]

Belgium

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Belgium has lost a lot of it's land to both the EC and to the huge super-port complex that has built up around the original port of Oostende. This super-port is the main port for trade into and out of the EC and takes up all of Belgium's coastline and extends about 15 km inland. The port has hundreds of berths for surface vessels and submarines and also has a huge airfield that is capable of taking the largest civilian cargo aircraft. Oostende is connected to the rest of the EC and beyond by numerous rail and road links that sprawl over Belgium like a giant web, cutting their way through the suburbs of almost every town and natural feature of the land.

Another large portion of Belgium is taken up by the sprawling EC metropolis of the Brussels/Antwerp/Ghent urban complex which is home to the European Council and all the accompanying offices and staff that go with it. All multi-national corporations maintain a large presence here and many countries maintain a consulate or embassy here. This means that the majority of the population in the urban complex, still referred to as Brussels, are foreigners and as a result, although EC-controlled, security is also supplied by corporations who feel the need to use their own people to guarantee the safety of their staff. Needless to say this sometimes leads to friction between government and corporations but most people agree that Department D of the Interior Commission usually has the last word.[1]

Luxembourg

Luxembourg has managed to remain relatively unchanged for the last twenty years or so apart from the gradual urbanization of most of the country. It's primary industry is banking and it is commonly referred to as the ' Switzerland of Europe' with it's no questions policy and it's uncooperative attitude towards official investigations and questions. In fact the main rule of banking in Luxembourg is as long as you stay clean in their country they don't care where your money came from or what you do with it Needless to say many EC slush funds reside in Luxembourg as it's considered to be both more secure and cheaper than other well known financial safe-havens. The country itself is very clean and well cared for with seemingly no poverty or discontent visible to any visiting foreigners. The truth is that Luxembourg exports its unwanted to the other EC countries who take them in and house them in payment for financial services.[1]

Government

The low countries area is governed by the United Benelux Congress which is made up of representatives from all three countries. The number of Congressmen for each country is in direct proportion to the size of their population. Each country holds its own elections where by the population choose its congressmen out of the candidates put forward by all the political parties.

The United Benelux Congress oversees the running of all three countries and the implementation of EC will. The benefits of a combined administration are less cost, better communications between the three countries and a united voice that is more easily heard in the corridors of the EC. The elections are held every three years in all countries but individual countries may hold elections to change their congressmen if they deem it necessary.[1]

Cities

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the Netherlands' capital, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, legacies of the city's 17th-century Golden Age. Its Museum District houses the Van Gogh Museum, works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city's character, and there are numerous bike paths.[1]

Brussels

Brussels

Brussels is first and foremost the center of the EC. It houses hundreds of thousands of EC employees and all the accouterments they need. Many corporations have offices here and the largest have tens of thousands of employees stationed there to influence the decisions of the EC. This means Brussels is literally split into corporate and diplomatic areas spread among the native population. with all these important people living in Brussels security is tight, with both the EC and corporations seeking to maintain law and order. This means the average Belgian is often trampled underfoot by the political maneuverings that happen in and around the corridors of the EC. So, as a holiday destination, Brussels lacks any outstanding appeal and is not often visited by tourists except those passing through on the way to other more attractive destinations. For those that do stop over they find good hotels, good restaurants and plenty of diversions to keep them occupied while they rest For the more adventurous, it is still possible to find the real Brussels but these areas are less heavily policed and some tourists lean the hard way that even the heart of the EC is not as safe as the brochures would have you believe.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 RAMOS, J. Eurosource Plus. 1st ed. Berkeley CA: R. Talsorian Games, 1995 (pg.36-40)
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