Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC)

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Established in 1948 by the recipients of Marshall Plan aid, the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) coordinated the efforts of its members to restore their national economies. A part of a network of national and international aid agencies, programs, and institutions, the OEEC provided the organizational framework to manage the post–World War II reconstruction of Western Europe. The OEEC represented the beneficiaries of the European Recovery Program (ERP) vis-à-vis the U.S. government. Having prepared the first ERP on the European side, the OEEC was later responsible for allocating ERP funds. After the end of the Marshall Plan, in 1952, the organization lost its importance, while it provided the basis for the subsequent and expanded development of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1961.

On 5 June 1947, the U.S. secretary of state George C. Marshall, in a speech at Harvard University, introduced the idea of a U.S.-supported European recovery program. Rather than presenting a ready-made plan, Marshall emphasized that the Europeans needed to take the initiative. To receive American aid, Europeans were to cooperate and to formulate a joint economic program. The U.S. secretary of state's call was open to all European countries. To negotiate the proposed European recovery scheme, in July 1947, sixteen Western European states formed the Committee on European Economic Cooperation (CEEC). Intergovernmental negotiations with the United States started soon thereafter. On 16 April 1948, the CEEC set up the OEEC as a permanent organization to advance European economic cooperation. The founding members of the OEEC were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. West Germany, originally represented by the Bizone (the combined American and British occupation zones) and the French occupation zone, officially entered the OEEC in June 1949, following the proclamation of the German constitution (Basic Law) in May 1949. Until returned to Italian sovereignty in 1954, the Anglo-American zone of the Free Territory of Trieste was also a participant in the OEEC. Spain joined the organization in 1959.

The headquarters of the OEEC was established in Paris. French official Robert Marjolin, previously involved in the preparation and implementation of the French plan to modernize France's industry (the Monnet Plan), became the organization's first secretary general. Marjolin was succeeded in 1955 by René Sergent, the former Assistant Secretary General for Economic and Financial Affairs at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The OEEC comprised a council that appointed an executive committee of seven members. The council's decisions required unanimity. The operational arm of the OEEC consisted of a complex structure of committees and working parties.

The OEEC was instrumental in assessing European requirements for U.S. aid and devising a system for regular consultation. Among the organization's functions were the preparation of an annual economic recovery program to distribute ERP aid and the allocation of scarce resources among the member states. Abolishing quantitative trade restrictions between its member states and fostering intra-European trade were further goals of the organization. A major achievement of the OEEC was the creation of a European Payments Union (1950). Set up for a limited period of four years (1948–1952) and operating through a counterpart fund, the ERP helped to contain inflation, revive trade, and restore production in Western Europe.

Managing the program on the U.S. side and acting as the OEEC's partner organization was the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), also founded in April 1948. The ECA promoted the unification of the European market through the OEEC as the basis for a stable Western Europe. For the Truman administration, the reconstruction of a democratic and capitalist (Western) Europe was essential in the fight against Soviet communism. The Marshall Plan was to provide both a successful economic tool to restore the European economies and a decisive U.S. foreign policy instrument. U.S. support for Western Europe proved politically significant in the early Cold War years. However, the economic impact of U.S. aid for European recovery has been challenged. As an international organization, the OEEC fell short of fulfilling American hopes of truly advancing European integration. The United Kingdom, in particular, was not prepared to compromise sovereignty to create a European customs union or a federation. With U.S. support and without British participation, European integration materialized in 1951 when the European Coal and Steel Community was established.

The OEEC's significance declined with the end of the ERP in 1952. In 1961, the OECD was established to succeed the OEEC. With the United States and Canada among its founding members, the new organization extended and transformed its European predecessor.

See alsoEuropean Coal and Steel Community (ECSC); European Union; Marshall Plan; NATO.


George C. Marshall Foundation. "The Marshall Plan: Selected Bibliography." Available at A concise annotated bibliography.

Hogan, Michael J. The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952. New York, 1987. A comprehensive monograph on the Marshall Plan, encompassing the evolution of the OEEC.

OECD. The European Reconstruction 1948–1961: Bibliography on the Marshall Plan and the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC). Paris, 1996. An annotated bibliography.

OECD. "Organization for European Economic Co-operation." Available at,2340,en_2649_34487_1876912_1_1_1_1,00.html. A historical introduction to the OEEC.

Brigitte Leucht

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Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC)

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Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC)