Oral History Interview with
Belgian diplomatist, Secretary to the Prime Minister and Secretary of the Council of Ministries, 1947-48; Secretary General for Administration of the Marshall plan in Belgium, 1948-53; Permanent Representative, Head of Belgian delegation and Vice Chairman of the Council, O.E.E.C., 1953-57; Belgian Ambassador to O.C.D.E., 1958-74; and Chairman of the O.C.D.E., Executive Committee, President of the International Energy Agency, 1973-74
July 8, 1971
by Theodore A. Wilson
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened June, 1983
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
July 8, 1971
by Theodore A. Wilson
WILSON: Please tell me of how you first came to be associated with the
OCKRENT: I was then just getting with [Paul-Henri] Spaak, who was Foreign
Minister in '47, as well as being Prime Minister. It had been a long time
since the Socialists had succeeded in forming a government. When the Marshall
plan started, he looked for a good man. We thought about Andre de Staercke,
who is my colleague now, who was secretary to the Prince Regent at the
time. The Prince Regent accepted our plan to use Andre de Staercke, and
so Spaak asked me to do it. So I moved from the Cabinet of the Prime Minister,
and I set up a new administration in Belgium to deal with the Marshall
plan for Belgium. I was not able to do this kind of job without coming
to Paris in the OEEC (Organization for European Economic Cooperation),
you see. So I came to all the important meetings of the Council, or of
the Executive Committee, since 1948. I came here practically once or even
twice a week. I came to the most important meetings with Baron [Charles
J.] Snoy and Hubert Ansiaux. Snoy was in charge of general economic programs
and trade programs, and Ansiaux was in charge of the financial program.
I was the youngest of the three, and I was handling our contacts with
the Foreign Office and all the departments.
WILSON: I was wondering. The decision was made to set up a somewhat separate
organization in Belgium. That is, you were not directly under one of the
normal Cabinet offices?
OCKRENT: Yes, because I had to, because I was not a Minister, and so I
had to have some link with one of the Ministers. Politically speaking,
you cannot imagine an administration which is not under the political
responsibility of the Minister. That was the equilibrium. Inside of the
Cabinet you had Socialists and Christian Democrats, and there was one
so-called 'technocrat." There was one man, a very close friend of
Spaak, and a first-class man. His names is [George] Moens de Fernig. Perhaps
you can see him too if you are back to Brussels, and tell him that I told
you to see him. He was Minister for Foreign Trade Imports, ERP. That involved
al1 kinds of imports which we needed in '47-'48. The Marshall plan administration
was given to him, politically. In fact, he was very closely linked to
Spaak because they were and are still very close friends. He was a technocrat
[non-party technician], and was neither a Socialist nor Social Christian
Democrat. I was very fortunate to have him as boss, because he's a businessman,
he handled all this as a businessman, you see. I had the opportunity to
be supported by a man in the Cabinet who says, "I need so many civil
servants, and such and such grades, and if you don't have them, well,
go to hell, I will quit. And I will say to the House when they ask why
I'm quitting, 'Because you are not prepared to do the right job in the
right way."' I was very happy to have this kind of man, which you
don't meet very often in political life, for obvious reasons. And so I
worked with them, and he was the minister for the Marshall plan, during
those four years.
He [Fernig] played a very important role in Paris, too, because we had
this very special organization. Spaak was chairman of the Council of OEEC,
on the ministerial level. So was Baron Snoy [later]. On the -- let us
say -- civil servant level, in which there were meetings once or twice
a week Moens Fertig was the Belgian representative. He had the Belgian
seat on it, and I had the Belgian seat in the Council of Officials.
Snoy and Spaak were in the chair for the ministers, you see. So we had,
I think, what was the right kind of an organization to have. We made a
difference between the representative of Belgium, and our duty as chairman
of the Council. This is a tradition in Belgium, a tradition for which
I am very proud, because we never confused our national interest and,
let us say, the European interests. And going along with this kind of
tradition now, for eleven years I have been chairman of the committee
[OECD Executive Committee], and I've never taken the floor for Belgium
in these years. Sometimes, and I think Snoy did the same, I have opposed
the Belgian point of view from the chair. And this happened to Spaak,
WILSON: Quite remarkable.
OCKRENT: Yes, but I think that you can find that in small countries.
I am sorry to be so rude towards big countries; there is no question of
morality, just a question of possibilities. You can do that
in small countries; politicians cannot do that in a big country. All our
parliamentarians and the public are prepared to understand this kind of
schizophrenia, if I may say so. You know, all big countries, especially
European -- they cannot understand it. Just try to explain that to a man
like de Gaulle. I'm sure you would not succeed. It is just obliterated;
they would not understand it, even the language. But for a small country
it is quite possible, even for the Dutch, who are very nationalistic-minded,
too. Of course, we are also a very young country and so on and so forth.
WILSON: The French did go a certain way, though, and perhaps they went
further toward supporting a strong OEEC, than might have been expected
at the beginning. Is that correct?
OCKRENT: Yes. Let me say two things. It's not very easy to say, because
this is the part of your judgment and I may be wrong in this judgment,
but the French are much more Europeans than the British
ever were in OEEC, and later on in a lot of discussions on Common Market
and so on and so forth. But it is a fact, for reasons which could be explained,
and you know these as well as I. I'm not speaking now about "the
Six," because in truth the French are in the Six and the British
are not, although they were invited to be members, and to participate
in the discussions and negotiations.
I'm not criticizing the British. It's very difficult, and I think it's
always wrong, to pass a judgment towards a big group of people. Sociologists
and historians agree to that. These are generalizations that the French
have such, and the Americans have such, and the Germans have such; it
really depends on the kind of people you are meeting and dealing with.
WILSON: One of the ironies, I guess, was that Stafford Cripps was representing
the British at that time. That's been brought home to me quite clearly.
OCKRENT: Oh, Stafford Cripps was really a most conservative, nationalistic-minded
man, very brilliant
and very intelligent, and very courageous, but I never met him. But even
in meetings in OEEC between Spaak and Cripps, they are very amazing you
know. Even the British refused a post. They alone opposed the appointment
of Spaak to OEEC. It was because of that, because I saw that there was
a man of temperament, of power, of political growth and of skill, much
more than that, a Socialist, which in the eyes of Stafford Cripps was
an argument, paradoxically, against him. I remember really a big dispute
between them. Spaak seemed to wonder what they were doing here, if they
were opposing, all the time, everything that was suggested by France.
Of course, Stafford Cripps could use substantive arguments which Spaak
wasn't able to, because he was not an economist.
WILSON: From all that I've read and what people have said, though, Spaak
seems to have been able to penetrate to the heart of problems, even if
he had not the technical expertise. Amazing.
OCKRENT: Oh, yes, because as he says himself in his memoirs, and, as he
told his very close civil servants as I was, and as Snoy and Ansiaux were,
he was fortunate enough, he said, to have always very good and responsible
servants able to explain to him in very simple words just what was going
on. But it was much more than that. I never met anybody else, except maybe
the Prince Regent -- but I didn't know him as well as Spaak -- who was
able to look in your eyes and understand what you meant to say in discussions.
This exists, you know, from time to time, while meeting people.
WILSON: Were there serious repercussions within OEEC because of the failure
to get his nomination? Did any bitterness last long?
OCKRENT: I don't think so. I'll tell you why. Because OEEC at that time
was so watered down. That was the policy of the British, not to have anything
which would be able to go deeper or farther than we succeeded to go.
WILSON: I have the impression from the documents that I have been able
to see that the United States and [Averell] Harriman worked very strongly
for Spaak's nomination. But there also is the suggestion, and several
people have raised it and, indeed, in a way you have raised it, that the
British did enjoy some special relationship, to use that term. And the
British may have felt, well, that the Americans will push us; they'll
argue that we should cooperate more and yet in the end, in the last result,
they won't push us too hard because of politics or the connection. Was
that the case?
OCKRENT: Yes. American policy was always reluctant to dictate the policy
in Europe, and I think it was a wise thing to do; but it was very depressing
You are speaking about this issue of the nomination of Spaak -- Spaak
received a message, a handwritten letter from President Truman. Spaak
was his choice, and he was the choice of
the United States. Everything he had done had been done to have OEEC again
coming up, and it was disappointing for everybody, especially for Spaak,
not because an appointment had been sought, but because he hesitated very
much to quit political life, you know.
WILSON: He was also president of the Council of Europe, wasn't he, at
OCKRENT: Yes; and at that time he believed in the Council of Europe.
Well, he wasn't wrong, politically speaking. We needed to have parliamentarians
meeting, and it was very, very disappointing.
WILSON: Was there a time in which you could tell that American interest
in OEEC was subsiding, or slacking off? Some of the people have suggested
that it came at the time of the Korean war, and other people I've interviewed
have said it happened as early as the signing of the NATO treaty.
OCKRENT: It's very difficult to answer that. If you are looking at the
people the American Government appointed to Paris, to succeed Averell
they were all first-class people. And [Pau1] Hoffman was still in charge
in Washington so they were not secondary people.
Now, the United States is a big country, and the United States Government
is a big administration, and we used to say, "The American administration
is a building. And whatever the matter might be, whether it is EPU, or
whatever it is, depends on the floor we are going to." That was a
standing joke. And sometimes that was true to a certain extent.
For the behavior of the United States, let us take a recent event. We
had a visit here a few months ago of Mr. Lee Goodrich. He came here and
talked to us about environmental problems. Looking at our work in OECD
-- the United States is not a member -- we had to take it for granted
that we had to go along in our work, make it much more effective than
it was before, and so on and so forth. In the meantime, there was another
demonstration on the part of the White House administration. For some
time Mr. [Daniel P.] Moynihan took
all initiative in NATO at the same time, so we just confer, you see. That
happened and, well, it happened on the part of big countries. Of course,
then it has repercussions in worldwide operations, but when this happened
in Belgium, it has no repercussion, whatsoever, so the people don't know
it. And it happened during the Marshall plan, too, and in the OEEC, too.
Of course, the Americans were irritated, as we were, or the French, or
all the countries, most often the Dutch and all the European countries,
about the slowness of our progress here in the field of trade.
I remember that we, the Benelux countries, with the Scandinavian countries,
suggested in OEEC to start a code of reducing tariffs in the field of
trade. And we had more or less the blessing of the United States Government,
which was very courageous on their part. The British opposed it very strongly,
because the entire question was the matter of GATT and of OEEC.
I remember the discussions we had here in OEEC, later on, when the negotiations
upon the Common Market started, the British delegation here made a presentation
to all the six countries. Spaak being the chairman of the group among
the six, I was under Spaak right here defending our negotiations, and
the British were telling us, "What are you doing? You are starting
a power combination to discriminate in trade. And you are trying to set
up political machinery which will never succeed. Secondly, you are doing
it to spoil our interests, for the interests of all the other European
countries, and for the interest of the United States.
We had a big dispute but not in the Council. The British asked always
to have private meetings on behalf of the delegation. So there are no
minutes of that. But there are recollections of a lot of people on that.
I had to argue, as we had been instructed, that they were invited; they
were in our negotiations, you know. They sent there
a very good man; and I liked him very much.
Mr. [Jean] Rey used to say, later on, "If you have a lot of people
which are deciding to go a little bit faster than the other, they are
renting a faster car, I mean an American one. But there are those others
opposed who would like to take the bus. But later on, if you were asked
to join and go faster, then you had to take a taxi and it's more expensive."
This was very strange, you know. This is my experience, too. When the
British decided to do something, or accept a decision, then you may just
close your eyes and go to sleep. They will go even further than what they
had promised to do.
WILSON: Yes, but the point of what you've really been saying is that
at that time it would have been much less complicated, much less difficult
OCKRENT: Oh, yes.
WILSON: Because everyone was on about the same level.
OCKRENT: About the same level.
WILSON: I'm not sure how much time you have to give to me.
OCKRENT: It's all right; all the time you need I will give.
WILSON: On this question of administration, what was your experience
in dealing with the Office of the Special Representative in Paris and
also with the ECA mission in Belgium, in Brussels? How did that work?
OCKRENT: Well, very well. With the exception of one man, whose name I
will not mention. I think you are asking for my judgment but this was
in my youth, and so I had a lot of teachers. The reason was that I was
one of the youngest here, so I tried to take all the opportunity to be
learning everything. The American side was really very strong. You had
people such as Averell Harriman, as Milton
Katz and [William H., Jr.] Draper. The people in the mission here, all
these people, were really first-class. And they came here with the will
to do something; they were very enthusiastic, young people, and they had
real power. I think that the kind of freedom which was given them by Washington,
thanks to their own importance to Washington, was of the greatest importance
and maybe is explanation number one of the success of all the enterprise.
And since, I think, but I know less than all the others, the same applies
to Paul Hoffman in Washington. I think it was really a first-class team.
Among the Europeans, too, you know, you had very good people, but this
was not your question.
Now, in Brussels. Well, as you know, Belgium is a small country but you
attach a very great importance, I think, to Belgium, but especially due
to the kind of people as Spaak. In political people, we had among the
best in Europe, as compared with the Dutch, the French and the British.
But your mission was not of the same importance as
in Paris, or in London, or even The Hague, because we were not among the
poorest countries. A lot of the explanation I know you received in Brussels
from Ansiaux and others. You know all the details about that. We had no
direct aid, or practically none. We had indirect aid since we were able
to pay better in Europe, and we were able to sell goods and things, through
American aid, to the other countries. You remember the mechanism of drawing
rights and things like that. You did not need a very strong mission in
Brussels, so you had a small mission, but these were first-class people.
I dealt with those people all the time, or with your ambassadors. And
we had an important ambassador, [Robert D.] Murphy. Later on [1961-1965]
we had for a certain time, Douglas MacArthur II, when we were in a critical
period with the Belgian Congo. In the ECA mission I had, as counterparts
or opposite numbers, Gene Blaine, who was a banker; Bob Haines, he has
died since; and one or two others. All those people -- I would say they
were really the
top. But you did need to have these people in Paris, or in London, or
in Germany, or in Italy, in all the countries. I'm not speaking of England
now. But in all these countries which were really in danger of communism
overwhelming them, there you had to send the best people.
As far as what concerns communism, you were at that time, really concerned
in Europe about communism and rightly so. But it was strange for me, as
a young man, holding Socialist opinion, but not being a member of the
Socialist Party, since I was a civil servant, and serving a man like Spaak.
A lot of your people -- not among the best ones, the best informed --
were influenced by the mass media which made confusion between socialism
OCKRENT: And this was really very strange, because in those countries
where socialism succeeds, there
is no communism, and there was no communism whatsoever.
In these very poor countries, you do have stupid people in the Socialist
parties. There were some mistakes made by the Gaullists and especially
by General de Gaulle himself after liberation. This is very easy to say
afterwards. This is post facto judgment. But one of my impressions when
I came there was the mental confusion -- not in your top people here in
the Embassy in Brussels, but in your American public opinion, and even
in the Administration,
WILSON: And certainly in Congress.
OCKRENT: And in Congress.
WILSON: Did this confusion have any effect on programs? Was there anti-Socialist
bias at all?
OCKRENT: No. I won't say that, but there was a certain feeling toward
those people who had this label, because of this confusion. I would say
much of that through your press and through people in your Congress whom
I met when I went to Washington. Of course, I met always people who were
convinced of the rightness of President Truman, the Marshall plan, or
of Acheson, for example. I met Senator [Brien] McMahon, for example, and
Congressman Abraham Ribicoff. I remember my first meetings with Ribicoff
who was in the House. He put a lot of questions to me about the Socialist
Party in Belgium, and he was not well-informed about socialism in Europe.
I mean some people, you see them sometimes -- politicians are common people.
Well, that's a democracy; fortunately, that's the case. But I remember
this kind of confusion, which really made me very shocked, you know, because
I remember the courage of a man like [Achille] van Acker, one of our Prime
Ministers and a Socialist who was against communism. And there is Spaak.
Their main enemies were the Communists, and we had no Communists whatsoever,
thanks to the courage of the Socialists, not of the Christians. In those
countries, Italy and France, where socialism was weak and still is weak,
even though it exists, there you have a strong Communist Party. But in
our country, in the Netherlands, and in the Scandinavian countries where
the Socialists are very strong [the Communist parties are weak], and that
the Americans did not understand. Well, we had to wait a few years, you
know. Of course, a man like Truman or Acheson knew all this. But your
public opinion -- and as you said, you had it in Congress. We had some
WILSON: This is a matter of an impression, and it's asking you to revive
your impression of over 20 years ago, but did you have a feeling then
that people in the ECA mission were looking over their shoulder at Congress
when they were pushing the programs? Perhaps they were sometimes more
cautious than they might have wished to be because they thought, or believed,
that Congress would not go along with a certain kind of program?
OCKRENT: Definitely, yes. Using the argument of Congress,
in order to push us to go faster in our efforts in coordination -- I'm
not saying integration, but in coordination -- they maybe used it a little
bit as a weapon, even going a little bit further than the true feeling
in Washington. But it was the right thing to do. We had delays you know;
we had to give our proposals at the end of June, and another on the 5th
of July. It was delayed; I remember meetings, day and night meetings.
I remember one week with Snoy and Ansiaux when we slept four hours a day,
no more than that. But it was really a very, very interesting experience.
I was thinking of that; I want to say that to Ansiaux and to Snoy because
we are very lucky people to be born in the right time to meet the challenges.
For us, you know, it's linked with American policy and American behavior,
which is more important than policy. Of course, there were exceptions,
like not having always the kind of softness we would like to have, but
you had the right people for this kind of thing. They were first-class
After the Marshall plan, and with OEEC becoming weaker and weaker because
of lack of policy in Europe, the Common Market being built up, fortunately
Europe was coming on in another direction elsewhere, and then your people
which you sent here were not the same.
WILSON: I had heard that. I've heard that from...
OCKRENT: This is important.
WILSON: Yes, from numerous people.
One of the questions that may not be on that list, but occurred to me
to ask you was how knowledgeable and how sympathetic were the Americans
with whom you dealt regarding Belgium's colonial problems, particularly
the economic problems of the Congo in that period. I've had the suggestion
that perhaps the Americans who came to Europe were too Europe-centered;
they thought only of Europe and not of the rest of the world in trade,
not of the rest of the world, perhaps, particularly, of European colonial
possessions with regard to
production of raw materials and things like that.
OCKRENT: Well, I think that before that the Belgian Congo was in a very
special situation, and really had on the part of the American politicians
and administration, a special treatment, because of the special link during
the war, between us and the United States, concerning the raw materials
for the preparation of the atomic bomb.
OCKRENT: You know this story. So the Belgian Congo was not something
unknown by the American administration, by American politicians, nor was
our policy in the Belgian Congo. It was very well known, not entirely
true. But we had with the Americans a very special climate towards the
Belgian Congo. That's why it was possible for Spaak, with help in Brussels,
to have this operation in the Belgian Congo. When we had these big difficulties,
not in the Belgian Congo, but in independent Congo, [G. McMurtrie] Godley
Ambassador in Kinshasa in those critical days. He was one of my opposite
numbers in the American Embassy in Brussels during the Marshall days.
He was the number two man under Murphy.
We had in OEEC an overseas territories committee. We played an important
role there, as did the French and the British, all of those European countries
which had responsibilities overseas. So this was not ignored, but it was
considered with some shyness or timidity, because their main policy was
to have these countries independent as soon as possible. You made, and
you are still making, this confusion between the United States as a former
colony and Africa and East Asia. But this is not a matter of confusion,
and if you will allow me, Mr. Wilson, it is not stupidity; it's because
you are linked in political life to use a political language which deals
with types of behavior which are behind the words you are using, but you
are a prisoner of the words.
WILSON: That's a very good way of putting it.
OCKRENT: And that is one of the cases we had to understand, that we Belgians
understood it perfectly well. We had a lot of trouble with you in this
regard, and we had the same with the French, who were prisoners of their
own words, too.
We had an overseas territories committee, I repeat, but the problem of
the colonies was never made a main issue in our discussions, because after
all it was a European recovery plan, ERP.
WILSON: Was possible American private investment in the Congo an issue
OCKRENT: I don't remember that; there was one problem, that's all. We
even had a secret contact with the American administration, of maybe a
special administration, for the furnishing of pitchblende at a time when
pitchblende was a rare commodity rich in uranium. This was only brought
to public attention in our country, maybe not before '47-'48.
WILSON: That had been done, of course, at great financial risk to the
OCKRENT: Oh, yes. We were reasonable enough. Well, it was not government;
it was a private company. And thanks to one or two people in this company,
they were wise enough not to try to push the last cent of this privileged
situation. I think that the contracts that we had were very reasonable,
and I think that this is very rare in political life, especially in international
politics, but I think that the Americans always were aware of this wisdom
of the Belgian Government. Of course, we had a very good reason to be
wise because we were in London. But the Americans never tried to take
our place in the Congo.
WILSON: This raises a question which I've been asking people. It's a
false question, in a way, but in the United States, a great deal of attention
on the part of some historians and others is given to what they call an
American empire. I don't know whether you're familiar with any of this,
but the argument is that the United States rather carefully and coldly
planned at the end of the war, and after
the war, to expand American markets abroad. Therefore, such programs as
the Marshall plan, the Truman Doctrine, and Point IV had as a primary
aim the expansion of opportunities for American business. Now, I wonder
if you have a comment on this.
OCKRENT: Oh, I think it's very easy to comment that way. A comment has
always two faces. How could you succeed to have your political obligations
towards the world fulfilled without the weapon you need to do that? Not
weapon, the tools, you need to have. What are these tools in a democracy?
Is it the Army occupying territories? No, that's out of the question.
What is the auxiliary for that? Your diplomatic presence? You need it,
but it's not enough. So, it's economic force, and economic power. How
could you do that, without investments abroad? Of course, if you are building
up your empire, you could be doing it at the expense of all this, which
could be argued about through the difficulties of balance of payments,
and one thing or another, but that is another question
that opens now another door in a big world. But provided that wise policies
are adopted, that economic force is the way one has to do it.
One has to add one thing. When we are looking at the policy of private
American companies in South America, for example, where the fruit companies
are dominant, then there's a lot of things to be said. I'm always saying
to my students -- I have postgraduate students, people who are already
well-trained in administration -- that paradoxically the traditional colonialists
could be less harmful towards less developed countries than the private
colonies that you could hire through big companies, such as United Fruit
in the Central America. Why? Because in a democracy you have always an
influence of your democratic public opinion on your political organization,
your parliament, your government. We had big disputes in the Belgian Parliament
about the way the Congo was administered. You cannot have arguments of
that sort in Congress about the behavior of the United Fruit in other
countries. It's impossible.
So, you have a power, which is the so-called economic power, which is,
in fact, a political power, without a democratic compensation in the use
of this power. So, while the Russians and the Chinese talk about neo-colonialism,
well, there is a certain truth in it. It is very important for us, the
democracies, and especially you, which are the leader -- willing or not,
that you have to be very careful and to study that, to look after that
very closely, because after all, for the poor peons in South America,
United Fruit is America. While I'm mentioning it, it may be marked by
stupidity, and be something foolish, or it may be the best company in
the world, I don't know. But the company is the United States, and it
is confused in the mind and the spirit of these poor people with those
people who have behaved so badly sometimes.
So, paradoxically, this new empire exists with no counterpart whatsoever
in the democratic organization, which did not exist under the European
colonialism aspect. Of course, this does
mean that there was not a lot of aid to North Africa or elsewhere in Africa,
or in Asia. It's really a very big program, which is not dangerous. Particularly,
there was awareness, more or less, but it had not become in your Congress,
or in world-wide public opinion, a question of serious, calm discussion.
Sometimes because we cannot go along with that in the same way.
WILSON: There was going to be, as you said, an inevitable growth of American
investment because of the situation, but you did not receive the impression
at that time that the Americans..
OCKRENT: At that time, no, certainly not. No; the impression was that
at a certain time in a democratic world, that you had to fight communism,
all of us. Of course, if we were prepared to accept communism, we would
have said well, all we want to have is your money; that's what the Russians
did. But let me put it another way, in an example I'm using all the time.
Let us take the example of small boys who are playing with marbles. Well,
if one of the boys has all the marbles, and he wants to go along to play
with all those, he has to make a redistribution of the marbles again.
It was the same with gold, gold being at that time, and still to a certain
extent, a necessity for paying for imports. But you needed, of course,
to have your customers able to pay you in order for you to export. Of
course, I know that exports for the United States at this time represented
a little more than 6 or 7 or 10 percent of industrial production. But
it was marginal production. This notion of marginal production is very
well known today, and you needed it, but this was secondary. Your first
aim was to oppose communism. The second aim -- and there was a certain
extent of confusion between the two -- was certainly economic, for your
own interests. Anyhow, we needed to come under this. If Europe had not
the possibility of paying you, you had to give them some marbles in order
to go ahead with the plan. That's what you did.
I remember, in parliament, the interpolation
of the Communists to the Government. I was then helping Spaak in Parliament,
you know, as secretary to Parliament in the meantime, giving him the figures
and what arguments he needed. But the Communists having warned, the Marshall
plan and ERQ were in the interest of the Americans, of the United States
Government. Otherwise, why do you think the hell you would do it? It was
as simple as that. And then he came with the arguments, you know; I had
dealt with them before. He didn't need me, but I was there, giving the
economic arguments and the stuff he needed like figures and all this kind.
But it was a right answer, as simple as that.
WILSON: That's very good.
I'll try a question on you which I haven't tried except on one or two
people, and you can answer it or not as you wish.
Was there any concern at the time, that what might come out of this program
might be an Americanization of Europe in the sense of the cultural as
well as the economic sphere? It is what I suppose Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber
has written about, in part, that Brussels in some way shows the effects
of that because of all the Americans there because of NATO and all of
the other things. Was there concern at the time that you might be giving
up or might be forced to give up some very important things in order to...
OCKRENT: When we recovered we saw that we had our own responsibility,
our own way of life. Well, to place dates on it is absolutely stupid,