Joseph Luns

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Joseph Marie Antoine Hubert Luns, CH (August 28, 1911 - July 17, 2002) was a Dutch politician and diplomat of the defunct Catholic People's Party (KVP) now merged into the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). He was the longest-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs from September 2, 1952 until July 6, 1971. He served as the 5th Secretary General of NATO from October 1, 1971 until June 25, 1984, the longest-serving Secretary General of NATO for 13 years.



Early life

Joseph Luns was born in a Roman Catholic, francophile and artistic family. His mother’s family originated from Alsace-Lorraine and had moved to Belgium after the annexation of the region by the German Reich in 1871. His father Huib Luns was a versatile artist and a gifted educationalist, who ended his career as professor of architectural drawing at the Technical University of Delft.[2] Luns got his secondary education in Amsterdam and Brussels. He opted to become a commissioned officer of the Dutch Royal Navy, but registered too late to be selected. Therefore, Luns decided to study law at Amsterdam University during the period 1932-1937. Like his father, Luns demonstrated a preference for conservative and authoritarian political parties and an interest in international politics. As a young student he positioned himself on the political right, favoring a strong authority for the state and being of the opinion that socialism, due to its idealistic ideology, had fostered the rising of fascism and nazism. Luns himself had been a silent member of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB), but left in 1936 before this party choose a strongly anti-semitic course.[3]

His choice for a diplomatic career was inspired by his father. He joined the Dutch Diplomatic Service in 1938 and after a two year assignment at the Private Office of the Foreign Minister he was appointed as attaché in Bern (Switzerland) in 1940 and in late 1941 he moved to Lisbon (Portugal). In both countries he was involved in assistance to Dutch refugees, political espionage and counterintelligence. In 1943 he was transferred to the Dutch embassy in London. Ambassador E. Michiels van Verduynen discovered Luns' great affinity for the political element in international affairs and entrusted him with important files on Germany which Luns handled with great skill.[4]

In 1949 Luns was appointed as deputy Dutch permanent representative to the United Nations. He worked closely with his new chief D. Von Balluseck, a political appointee without diplomatic experience. After the Netherlands became a member of the Security Council he temporarily chaired the Disarmament Commission. Luns was sceptical of the importance of the United Nations for international peace, believing it at times to be more like a forum for propaganda than a center for solving international conflicts. Still, he was of opinion that it was worthwhile to keep the UN in shape because it was the sole international organisation which offered opportunities for discussions between all states.[5]

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