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Organisation for European Economic Co-operation


The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation; (OEEC) came into being on 16 April 1948. It emerged from the Marshall Plan and the Conference of Sixteen (Conference for European Economic Co-operation), which sought to establish a permanent organisation to continue work on a joint recovery programme and in particular to supervise the distribution of aid. The headquarters of the Organisation was in the Chateau de la Muette in Paris, France.

The European organisation adopted was a permanent organisation for economic co-operation, functioning in accordance with the following principles:

  • promote co-operation between participating countries and their national production programmes for the reconstruction of Europe,
  • develop intra-European trade by reducing tariffs and other barriers to the expansion of trade,
  • study the feasibility of creating a customs union or free trade area,
  • study multi-lateralisation of payments, and
  • achieve conditions for better utilisation of labour.

Membership and structure

The OEEC originally had 18 participants:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Western Germany (originally represented by both the combined American and British occupation zones (The Bizone) and the French occupation zone). The Anglo-American zone of the Free Territory of Trieste was also a participant in the OEEC until it returned to Italian sovereignty.

Representatives of these countries and territories sat on the Council of the Organisation, chaired by well-known figures of the era (Paul-Henri Spaak, Paul van Zeeland, Dirk Strikker, Anthony Eden, Richard Heathcoat Amory). Decisions required unanimity. Coucil appointed an executive committee of seven members, with partial delegation of powers between full Council meetings. The business structure of the subordinate bodies of OEEC Council consisted of approximately fifteen vertical and five horizontal 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, maritime and inland transport, programmes, balance of payments, trade, intra-European payments and manpower.

The Secretary-General (Robert Marjolin until 1955 and then René Sergent) derived his authority from the Council. Work in the Seretartiat was carried out in directorates, roughly aligned with member country ministries and with the technical committees.

Reference: OECD