ECMT at 60

Sixty years ago, on 17 October 1953, Ministers from 16 European countries met in Brussels, Belgium, to create the European Conference of Ministers of Transport. The ECMT, as it became widely known, was intended by its founders as “a procedure whereby effective steps can be taken to coordinate and rationalise European inland transport of international importance”.

 

Less than a decade since the end of the World War II, the reconstruction of Europe’s devastated transport infrastructure was still far from complete. Yet the aspiration of the European nations to regain economic prosperity and bring people together that had only recently been enemies called for an effort to systematically develop the transport of people and goods on the continent. The way to do that would be to regularly bring together Ministers with responsibility for transport to find solutions.

 

Since those early days, ECMT resolutions, recommendations and reports have informed transport policy decisions on issues as diverse as railroad regulation and road safety, accessibility and environmental standards and market liberalisation for international road freight and haulage services.

 

Seat belts, helmets for motorcyclists, speed limits, blood alcohol limits and targeted traffic education programmes were all pioneered by ECMT before becoming the norm.

 

ECMT membership has grown significantly. Yugoslavia joined in 1955, Ireland in 1964 and Finland in 1975. The reunification of Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain boosted ECMT membership: Between 1991 and 1998, 22 countries of the former Eastern Bloc joined ECMT, starting with Hungary and Poland in 1991 and culminating in the accession of Russia in 1997.

 

From its inception, the ECMT had looked beyond the confines of Europe. Canada and the United States were invited as associate members in the founding protocol and joined in 1975 and 1977. Japan became the first non-European associate member in 1969, followed by Australia (1973) and New Zealand (1991). At the time of its 50th anniversary in 2003, a total of 50 countries were involved in ECMT: 42 members, 6 associate members and 2 observer countries.

 

The reality of globalisation - enabled not least by transport - was reflected in the Ministers’ decision to transform the ECMT from a European organisation focusing on land-based transport to a global, all modes forum for transport policy. Created by the Dublin Declaration in 2006, the International Transport Forum (ITF) is now taking the work of ECMT to a global level to meet the challenges of transport for the 21st century. ITF includes all former ECMT associate members as full members and has since attracted new countires: India joined in 2009, China in 2011 and Chile in 2012.

 

ECMT remains the legal core of ITF and maintains a number of European activities, such as the Multilateral Quota System. On the occasion of its 60th anniversary, the ECMT archive has been digitalised and is now freely available online on the OECD iLibrary:

Browse first ECMT Annual Report (1954)

Go to Council of Ministers Resolutions from 1954

Go to all ECMT publications

Go to more photos of the history of ECMT

Founding Fathers: Ministers of 16 nations sign the “Protocol concerning the European Conference of Ministers of Transport” on 17 October 1953 in Brussels. The original proposal for the new organisation had come from the OECE, forerunner of the OECD.

 

Royal ascent: Baudouin, King of the Belgians, congratulates signatories of the ECMT Protocol at a reception in the Royal Palace after the signing of the protocol

 

His own man: Michel Mange (r.) served as first Secretary-General from 1953-66. The 1955 annual report noted “a very simple operation” had been set up, “by appointing only one official”.

 

Getting to work: The first meeting of the ECMT Council of Ministers in Brussels in 1953

 

Europe reunited: Between 1991 and 1998, 22 former Eastern Bloc countries joined ECMT. The first Ministerial meeting in Eastern Europe was held in Warsaw in 1999, followed by Prague in 2000 and Bucharest in 2002 (photo)

Going Global: The 2006 Dublin Ministerial meeting transformed the ECMT into the International Transport Forum, a policy platform open for all countries and covering all transport modes.