Clinton, EU mark 50th anniversary of Marshall Plan
May 28, 1997
Web posted at: 9:33 a.m. EDT (1333 GMT)
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton
and European heads of state gathered at The Hague Wednesday
to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, the
U.S. aid effort that lifted Europe from the widespread
destruction of World War II.
The leaders attended a twice-yearly European Union summit
Wednesday before the ceremonies honoring the Marshall Plan
were to begin.
"Through our work here, we have taken another step on the
path that began with Gen. Marshall's vision," Clinton said
after the summit, where the U.S. and EU reached basic accord
on coordinating standards for testing pharmaceuticals and
The Marshall Plan was the vision of then-U.S. Secretary of
State George Marshall, the Army's chief of staff during World
War II who saw the devastation firsthand.
By June 1947, with the fighting more than two years in the
past, little reconstruction had taken place across the
continent. Hunger and unemployment were widespread. Historic
cities were in ruins.
Implementing the plan
U.S. officials feared if conditions continued to worsen,
communism would spread into central and western Europe. It
was at this time that Marshall gave a brief commencement
address at Harvard University and proposed to help
"Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine
but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos," he said
during the June 5, 1947, address. "Its purpose should be
the revival of an economy in the world so as to permit the
emergence of political and social conditions in which free
institutions can exist."
His vision unleashed one of the world's most ambitious
economic recovery plans in history.
"If we decide to do this thing, we can do it successfully,"
Marshall said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that the
whole world hangs in the balance as to what is to be."
Keeping communism in check
Under the plan, the U.S. opened its stockpiles and treasury
to Europe. Within five years, more than $15 billion -- the
equivalent of $88 billion today -- poured into the continent,
Nations under communist control were offered aid, but the
Soviet Union refused and threatened to use force against
Eastern Bloc nations that accepted aid. The Soviets'
heavy-handed tactics persuaded some reluctant U.S. officials
to approve the plan.
And many historians say the plan not only helped Europe
recover, but it also held communism in check.
"The Marshall Plan was primarily a political program to
contain communism in western European countries by
stabilizing the existing economies or helping transform
economies and industries destroyed by war," Vienna University
historian Oliver Ratkolb said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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