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The role of the Marshall Plan in the development of the European Union

Page history last edited by Christopher Kirkland 9 years, 11 months ago





     The Marshall Plan was established in June 1947. It was named after the Secretary of State (to President Truman) at the time George Marshall because of his invaluable involvement in developing it. Its basic idea was to provide financial aid to many European countries after the Second World War. The main countries to recieve funding were Austria, Belgium - Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey. The initial plan involved the Soviet Union. Politically this proved to be difficult and they never received any of the funding. It was hoped that this financial aid would help to prevent many of the problems that occurred during the inter war period of 1918-1939.  George Marshall earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in developing the Marshall Plan. Questions over how effective the Marshall Plan was at actually assisting in development. Its position in terms of help enable long term peace to be established is however invaluable. $13 billion dollars approximately, was spent over a four year period; this went on technical assistance as well as obvious financial support for reconstruction etc.





The Marshall Plan also established the creation of the Organization for European economic cooperation.  It did this in a number of ways:


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


 It was arguably through this persistent interlinking of many European countries economic affairs that to not cooperate would simply be too risky.  

This provided the basis for European cooperation and this was favoured by many people because cooperation was seen as a fundamental building block in the establishment of long term European Peace.





     There has been a lot of academic literature published which contests the varying degrees to which the Marshall plan helped develop the concept of the EU, it is also not as simple as studying the effects but also the motivation behind the Marshall Plan. Many believe it was simply a plan by the USA to halt the spread of communism.  Some also believe that the impact it had may have just been due to the natural development of the international economy at the time and that actually the amount of financial investment the USA made was not sufficient to bring about such significant, rapid changes.  The key fact to consider is its role in establishing necessary economic cooperation; it showed many European countries the potential benefits of cooperation and laid many of the early foundations in the development of the European Union. 





Hobsbawm,E(2006).The Age of Extremes, 1914-1991.Abacus.


James,H (2003). Europe Reborn: A History, 1914 - 2000. Pearson Longman.


Gowland,D AND Dunphy,R AND Lythe,C.(2006). The European Mosaic 3rd edition.Pearson Longman.


Dinan,D.(2005). Ever Closer Union, An introduction to European Integration. Palgrave and Macmillan.




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