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Operation Welcome

How Strasbourg Remained a Seat of European Institutions, 1949–1979


Claudia Leskien

An accepted narrative within European integration history is that the issue in which city to locate European Community headquarters was decided on the intergovernmental level between the member states. In the present volume, this view is expanded with the example of Strasbourg by arguing that activity at the local level is an important factor as well.
A set of highly active political and associational local agents used different strategies to consolidate the city’s position against competing cities and the European Communities. This study finds that a highly specialised group of municipal politicians and civil servants were an important factor for bringing the European institutions to the city.


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This book is based on my PhD-dissertation Operation Welcome. The Municipal Politics of Consolidating Strasbourg’s Position as European Institution Host from 1949 to 1979 which is the product of my doctoral studies from 2010 to 2014 at Aarhus University, Denmark. It is an independent study within the research project Institutions of democracy in transition. Transnational fields in politics, administration and law in Denmark and Western Europe after 1945 conducted by Associate Professor Ann-Christina Lauring Knudsen which ran from 2010 to 2013. The thesis investigates which local agents in the city of Strasbourg attempted to consolidate the city’s position as European institution host, as well as which measures and strategies they employed to achieve this aim. The intergovernmental decision process of determining the host, or seat city, of the institutions of the European Communities is well known. The institutions of the Schuman Plan were provisionally located in Luxembourg and Strasbourg, while Brussels from 1958 started to house the new organisations following the Treaties of Rome the year before. My initial point of entry into the issue were the questions, whether actors on other levels than the intergovernmental one were involved and what occurred in the time spans between decisions of the foreign ministers of the European Communities. In a survey of available literature, it seemed as if Pierre Pflimlin, long-term mayor of the city from 1959 to 1983, was nearly singularly responsible for Strasbourg staying European institution seat.1 For a first brief research stay in the local archive in Strasbourg, I...

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