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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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Chapter 1. Strasbourg, seat of European institutions


41 Chapter 1 Strasbourg, seat of European institutions This chapter serves as a contextual chapter to the subsequent three chapters on each of the three main themes of Strasbourg’s efforts to consolidate its position as seat. It introduces key events of Alsatian history which were especially pertinent to the promotion of Strasbourg as European and symbol for Franco-German reconciliation. Subsequently, general urban developments in Strasbourg from 1945 will be outlined to illustrate the environment mainly infrastructural processes to welcome European institutions were imbedded in. In a sub-chapter, the siting of the CoE in 1949, the Common Assembly in 1952 and further activities of the European Communities to determine a permanent seat during the 1950s will be briefly investigated and summarised. (a) Alsatian history In order to analyse some of the strategies of local actors, it is necessary to draw on recent Alsatian history. The conflict between France and Germany over the region from 1871 onwards was often employed to rationalise Strasbourg’s status as symbol for reconciliation following the Second World War by local actors. Strasbourg portrayed itself as the symbol of Franco-German reconciliation to justify the validity of their application for the single seat. This description also is a staple element of the general narrative of the history of the European integration process.1 Recent Alsatian history is important to consider in this context, as the actors in Strasbourg appropriated it by stylising themselves as ‘the victim’ of the power struggle between France and Germany. In this context, they argued that...

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