The relationship between the EPA and the member countries was always problematic. The agency was to federate and guide the national productivity centers (NPC), as well as to service them. The inevitable tension between these functions caused numerous conflicts. The EPA was heavily dependent on the member countries’ goodwill, and since their benevolence could never be taken for granted, the agency was forced to spend a considerable amount of energy on staying alive.1 At the same time, however, the agency enjoyed a large degree of freedom. The balance between autonomy and member country control was an uneasy one, both as far as the input (the kind of programs chosen by the agency) and as far as the output (the way the agency tried to implement these projects) were concerned .
Once the general orientations had been defined, the Council usually ignored the agency.2 The question of the EPA’s relationship with the member countries thus to a large degree became one of the agency’s relationship with the NPCs. The NPCs played an important role in discussing the EPA’s program. Moreover, from the outset it had been agreed that the EPA should act through the intermediary of the NPC.3
The EPA was often defined as a “Federation of National Productivity Centers.”4 Not everybody was keen on using that term, because of its ambitious connotations. Those who did use it, interpreted the label in different ways. For some, it expressed an ambition, namely the idea that the EPA should play a federating and perhaps even a leading role in relation to the NPC. For others, it merely meant that the EPA ought to be a clearing
1 See: Chapter II.
2 See: Chapter III.
3 UMA, j.nr. 106.P.11, box 2, Note, UM 11.2. 1956, att.: “Draft note on the Future Financing of EPA, 7.2. 1956;” OEEC, The European Productivity Agency. Activities and Achievements; MBZ, DGEM-Archief, 663/EPA Algemeen, f. “1477,” ltr., Hijmans to Berger and de Milly, 9.11. 1954, att.: note, 9.11. 1954; NOUD, 44.25/1 t, box 3, PRA/P/2, 14.11. 1953, “The Operation of PRA Committee and its Sub-Committees in Relation to the Work of the EPA;” UMA, j.nr. 106.P.11, box 4, ltr., Jensen to Grégoire, 28.3. 1957; ABA, Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd, arkivnr. 516, box 79, PU, note, 30.1. 1953; ABA, Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd, arkivnr. 516, box 80, f. “Produkti vitetsudvalget. 1953. C1,” note, s.d., “Møde i PU vedr. handel d. 4.11. 1953.”
4 Interview with Gaston Deurinck, 14.8. 1995; UMA, j.nr. 106.P.11, box 3, PRA(56)48/4, 19.10. 1956, “Memo by the Swiss Delegation on the Objectives and Activities of the EPA”; OEEC, The European Productivity Agency. Activities and Achievements.