Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)



Sandwiched between a splashy IBM office building and offices for a savings bank, the four-story OPEC building fronts the Danube Canal. Founded in Geneva back in 1960, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has called Vienna home since 1965 and has been in its present location since 1977.

It's a little unnerving riding up to the entrance of OPEC because there's a machinegun-toting Austrian soldier standing guard outside the front doors. The soldier eyes me suspiciously as I ask if it's okay to lock my bike outside the entrance. I get the okay. I check in with the receptionist, who is either a chain smoker or too lazy to empty the overflowing ashtray filled with cigarette butts on the reception counter. There's a huge teak mural in the lobby, which I estimate to be eight feet high and 16 feet long.

I receive a warm welcome from Siham Alawami, Public Relations Co-ordinator. Before heading up to her office we take a peek in the ground floor library. This isn't just any old library but according to Alawami, it's the world's largest library dedicated to energy.

We go through my questions quickly. Why? A group of college students from Kansas are visiting and in a few minutes a film will be shown giving the history of OPEC. Actually, the film is quite interesting. The founding members of OPEC are Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Full members include Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Nigeria. Ecuador and Gabon are former members. How do you become a member? The OPEC Statue stipulates that "any country with a substantial net export of crude petroleum, which has fundamentally similar interests to those of Member Countries, may become a Full Member of the Organization, if accepted by a majority of three-fourths of Full Members, including the concurring votes of all Founders Members."

When the film is over questions are taken. The first, "Why is OPEC headquartered in Vienna?" is according to Alawami the most frequently asked question. The answer: diplomatic immunity and tax benefits. What's the official language of OPEC? English.

About 130 employees work in the building built in the 1970's. There's plenty of employee parking, no cafeteria, smoking in offices is optional and there're no recreational facilities-though they do have showers.

The boardroom? It's a big meeting room dominated by a large U-shaped table. This is where the oil ministers meet and vote plus, it's also used for press conferences.