RGW - Comecon Versus The European Economic Community

Comecon Versus The European Economic Community

Although Comecon was loosely referred to as the "European Economic Community (EEC) of (Central and) Eastern Europe," important contrasts existed between the two organizations. Both organizations administered economic integration; however, their economic structure, size, balance, and influence differed:

In the 1980s, the EEC incorporated the 270 million people in Europe into economic association through intergovernmental agreements aimed at maximizing profits and economic efficiency on a national and international scale. The EEC was a supranational body that could adopt decisions (such as removing tariffs) and enforce them. Activity by members was based on initiative and enterprise from below (on the individual or enterprise level) and was strongly influenced by market forces.

Comecon joined together 450 million people in 10 countries and on 3 continents. The level of industrialization from country to country differed greatly: the organization linked two underdeveloped countries – Mongolia, and Vietnam – with some highly industrialized states. Likewise, a large national income difference existed between European and non-European members. The physical size, military power, and political and economic resource base of the Soviet Union made it the dominant member. In trade among Comecon members, the Soviet Union usually provided raw materials, and Central and East European countries provided finished equipment and machinery. The three underdeveloped Comecon members had a special relationship with the other seven. Comecon realized disproportionately more political than economic gains from its heavy contributions to these three countries' underdeveloped economies. Socialist economic integration or "plan coordination" formed the basis of Comecon's activities. In this system, which mirrored the member countries' planned economies, the decisions handed down from above ignored the influences of market forces or private initiative. Comecon had no supranational authority to make decisions or to implement them. Its recommendations could only be adopted with the full concurrence of interested parties and (from 1967) did not affect those members who declared themselves disinterested parties.

As remarked above, most Comecon foreign trade was a (sometimes corrupt) state monopoly, placing several removes between a producer and a foreign customer. Unlike the EEC, where treaties mostly limited government activity and allowed the market to integrate economies across national lines, Comecon needed to develop agreements that called for positive government action. Furthermore, while private trade slowly limited or erased national rivalries in the EEC, state-to-state trade in Comecon reinforced national rivalries and resentments.

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