Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Council for Mutual Economic Assistance

Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON or MEA), international organization active between 1956 and 1991 for the coordination of economic policy among certain nations then under Communist domination, including Albania (which did not participate after 1961), Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia participated in matters of mutual interest. Although it was formed in 1949, a formal charter was not ratified until 1959. The charter gave COMECON the same international status as the European Economic Community (Common Market), but the structure was controlled by heads of state. COMECON undertook large-scale measures for organization of industrial production and coordination of economic development through a series of five-year plans (1956–85), but, despite attempts at integration, most trade was strictly bilateral; planned economies had limited mechanisms for transferring trade surpluses or deficits to third world countries. After increasing 400% for its first 15 years, trade among COMECON countries declined. Briefly a coordinating body only (Jan.–June, 1991), it was disbanded in June, when democratization, the collapse of trade and conversion to hard currencies rendered it redundant.

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