Organisation for European Economic Co-operation16 April 1948 (Paris [France]) - 01 September 1961 (Paris [France])
Organisation Européenne de Coopération Economique
The Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) came into being on 16 April 1948. It emerged from the Marshall Plan and the Conference on European Economic Cooperation (CEEC), which sought to set up a permanent organisation to continue work on the joint recovery programme and in particular to supervise the distribution of aid. The European organisation adopted was a permanent organisation for economic cooperation, functioning in accordance with the following principles: promotion of cooperation between participating countries and their national production programmes for the reconstruction of Europe, development of intra-European trade by reducing tariffs and other barriers to the expansion of trade, study of the feasibility of creating a customs union or free trade area and multilaterialisation of payments, achievement of conditions for better utilisation of labour.
The OEEC had 18 members: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, plus Western Germany (originally represented by Bizonia and the French occupation zone). Trieste was also a member of the OEEC for a period. These countries and territories sat on the Council of the organisation, chaired by representatives (Paul-Henri Spaak, Paul Van Zeeland, Dirk Stikker, Anthony Eden and Richard Heathcoat-Amory) who were bound to make decisions unanimously. It appointed an executive committee of five permanent members and five rotating members, with partial delegation of powers between full Council meetings. The Secretary General (Robert Marjolin until 1955 and then René Sergent) derived his authority from the Council for questions of administration, which were handled by directorates. The business division of the OEEC consisted of technical committees responsible for handling particular areas: food and agriculture, coal, electricity, oil, iron and steel, raw materials, machinery, non-ferrous metals, chemical products, timber, pulp and paper, textiles etc.
The aim of the OEEC, as laid down in Article 11 of the Convention for European Economic Cooperation of 16th April, 1948, was "the achievement of a sound European economy through the economic co-operation of its Members." The initial task to achieve this objective was the preparation and execution by the OEEC of a joint recovery programme, drawn up in the form of a Convention, which would enable all members to reach a satisfactory level of economic activity without exceptional external aid.
The general obligations laid down in Part 1 of the Convention define the objectives which the Members of the OEEC should pursue. Thus, the Member countries were required to promote "the development of production through efficient use of the resources at their command" (Article 2), to develop "the maximum possible interchange of goods and services" and "achieve a multilateral system of payments among themselves" (Article 4), to study "Customs unions or analogous arrangements such as free trade areas" (Article 5) , to "reduce tariff and other barriers to the expansion of trade" (Article 6) and to maintain their internal financial stability (Article 7). Finally, they must endeavour to facilitate the movement of workers and, more generally, reduce obstacles to the free movement of persons. Under this definition the objectives of the OEEC were limited to the economic field considered in all its aspects. In practice, however, the activities of the Organisation had been extended to other fields which go rather beyond purely economic questions, such as, in particular, the field of nuclear energy used for peaceful purposes or that of the shortage of scientific and technical manpower. For this reason, the bodies set up by the OEEC to keep under permanent review the different questions within its competence have generally an economic, financial or social objective, but they may also have a rather pronounced technical character.
In September 1961 the OEEC was replaced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which had a more international outlook.