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Operation Welcome

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

Series:

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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Introduction

Extract

With the increasing creation of international organisations (IOs) following the Second World War, the issue where and how to site them emerged as a new political theme, as well. Central concerns included the political and juridical status of their headquarter buildings and the areals they were constructed on. Next to the practical application with newly founded IOs, theoretical considerations were made, such as reflections on the status and the administration of its territory.1 In most cases, negotiations on these aspects occurred between the organisation or representatives of its member states with the government of the prospective host country. They did not seem to have resulted in protracted discussions. One example constitutes the regional organisation Council of Europe (CoE), founded in 1949, whose siting in the city of Strasbourg, France, proceeded in that manner. In material issued by the organisation, such as the various editions of the procedure and practice of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE),2 a description of its founding process is included. From the matter-of-fact statement that its seat is in Strasbourg without any specification of the decision process,3 it becomes apparent that it must have been a relatively undisputed decision. In contrast, the political question where to site institutions of the different European Communities has been a highly symbolic and contested matter with recurring discussions and attempts for a permanent solution. The treaty of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) specified that a seat should be found in common accord by...

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