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Organization for European Economic Cooperation

Multinational West European economic recovery and integration program. In order to continue the work of the European Recovery Program (also known as the Marshall Plan) on a more permanent basis, the Conference for European Economic Cooperation (also known as the Conference of Sixteen) established the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) on 16 April 1948. Headquartered in Paris, the OEEC had eighteen founding members: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the western zones of occupation in Germany. The Free Territory of Trieste participated until it again became a part of Italy in 1954. Many leading European figures played a role in the OEEC, including Belgium's Paul-Henri Spaak and Britain's Sir Anthony Eden.

The OEEC played a central role in the allocation of Marshall Plan funds until 1952, when that program ended. The early efforts of the OEEC, however, were plagued by crises of currency valuation, distribution, and convertibility. These problems were particularly difficult to resolve, as decisions in the OEEC Council could be made only with unanimity. Under a plan devised by the OEEC's so-called Committee of Wise Men in August 1949, nearly $12 billion in American and Canadian aid to Europe eventually was meted out through the Marshall Plan. The United Kingdom received nearly one-quarter of the aid, with France getting one-fifth. Italy and the new Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) received just over 11 percent each.

As the Marshall Plan shifted its emphasis from issuing credits to promoting economic integration in August 1949, the OEEC once again played a critical role. The OEEC negotiated limited freedom of trade in foodstuffs, manufactured products, and raw materials that accounted for nearly 60 percent of intra-European trade by the end of 1950. To prevent further problems and ease the movement of currencies, the OEEC created the European Payments Union (EPU) in September 1950. The EPU was dissolved in 1958 when all member currencies became convertible.

Although the OEEC was also involved in early discussions aimed at creating a single European market, the end of the Marshall Plan in 1952 and British pressure gave the leading role in these developments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The OEEC continued to work in the background, however, establishing the European Productivity Agency (1952) and the European Nuclear Energy Agency (1957). The OEEC also provided the institutional framework for negotiations leading to the European Free Trade Area and eventually to the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

In September 1961, the OEEC was subsumed into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a global body that seeks to facilitate trade. Today, the OECD comprises member thirty nations and is active in more than one hundred countries.

Timothy C. Dowling


Further Reading
Gillingham, John. European Integration, 1950–2003. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.; Schain, Martin A., ed. The Marshall Plan: Fifty Years After. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
 

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