The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Russian: Совет Экономической Взаимопомощи, Sovet Ekonomicheskoy Vzaimopomoshchi, СЭВ, SEV; English abbreviation COMECON, CMEA, or CAME), 1949–1991, was an economic organization under the leadership of the Soviet Union that comprised the countries of the Eastern bolck along with a number of socialist states elsewhere in the world. The Comecon was the Eastern Bloc's reply to the formation of the Organization for European ecomomic co-operation in Western Europe.
The descriptive term was often applied to all multilateral activities involving members of the organization, rather than being restricted to the direct functions of Comecon and its organs. This usage was sometimes extended as well to bilateral relations among members, because in the system of socialist international economic relations, multilateral accords — typically of a general nature — tended to be implemented through a set of more detailed, bilateral agreements.
According to some historians, Moscow was concerned about the Marshall plan. Comecon was then meant to prevent countries in the Soviets’ sphere of influence from moving towards that of the Americans and the South-East Asia.
- Soviet union
- East Germany
- South Yemen
In the late 1950s, a number of communist-ruled non-member countries — People's republic of China, North Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia — were invited to participate as observers in Comecon sessions. Although Mongolia and Vietnam later gained full membership, China stopped attending Comecon sessions after 1961. Yugoslavia negotiated a form of associate status in the organization, specified in its 1964 agreement with Comecon. Collectively, the members of the Comecon did not display the necessary prerequisites for economic integration: their level of industrialization was low and uneven, with a single dominant member (the Soviet Union) producing 70% of the community national product.
In the late 1980s there were ten full members: the Soviet Union, six East European countries, and three extraregional members. Geography, therefore, no longer united Comecon members. Wide variations in economic size and level of economic development also tended to generate divergent interests among the member countries. All these factors combined to give rise to significant differences in the member states' expectations about the benefits to be derived from membership in Comecon. Unity was provided instead by political and ideological factors. All Comecon members were "united by a commonality of fundamental class interests and the ideology of Marxism-Leninism" and had common approaches to economic ownership (state versus private) and management (plan versus market). In 1949 the ruling communist parties of the founding states were also linked internationally through the Cominform, from which Yugoslavia had been expelled the previous year. Although the Cominform was disbanded in 1956, interparty links continued to be strong among Comecon members, and all participated in periodic international conferences of communist parties. Comecon provided a mechanism through which its leading member, the Soviet Union, sought to foster economic links with and among its closest political and military allies. The East European members of Comecon were also militarily allied with the Soviet Union in the Warsaw pact.
There were three kinds of relationships – besides the 10 full memberships – with the Comecon:
Yugoslavia was the only country considered to have associate member status. On the basis of the 1964 agreement, Yugoslavia participated in twenty-one of the thirty-two key Comecon institutions as if it were a full member.
Finland, Iraq, Mexico and Nicaragua had a nonsocialist cooperant status with Comecon. Because the governments of these countries were not empowered to conclude agreements in the name of private companies, the governments did not take part in Comecon operations. They were represented in Comecon by commissions made up of members of the government and the business community. The commissions were empowered to sign various "framework" agreements with Comecon's Joint Commission on Cooperation.
After 1957 Comecon allowed certain countries with communist or pro-Soviet governments to attend sessions as observers. In November 1986, delegations from Democratic republic of Afganistan, Ethiopia, laos, Nicaragua, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) attended the 42d Council Session as observers.