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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 2. Hosting Europe


79 Chapter 2 Hosting Europe Hosting efforts, the first theme of strategies to consolidate the position of Strasbourg as host of European institutions, encompassed various activities of the city administration and local private associations. These included offering receptions and leisure activities during session periods. In this book, this definition of ‘hosting activities’ will be extended to all kinds of promotional activities, such as municipal politicians campaigning in Strasbourg’s favour at the national government or the European Communities. Responding to threats to Strasbourg capabilities as seat city is also included in the general term ‘hosting activities’. Such actions were observable over the entire period of study, but the bulk of activity occurred in connection with the second ECSC seat application round from 1957 to 1959. The central aim of these events constituted gaining the appreciation of their guests, also in view of the competition with other seats. City actors pursued this by attempting to impress parliamentarians and indirectly the European institutions with their hosting efforts and capabilities. The general motto of local actors’ efforts was that delegates “soient accueillis dans les meilleures conditions possibles.”1 Another central theme included the construction of a European mission by municipal actors, which was likewise employed as an argument why Strasbourg would constitute an excellent host for European institutions. Through this conceptualisation, a continuity of a ‘European’ history was created in order to justify Strasbourg’s seat status. In this chapter, the activities of municipal actors in this area are separated into three distinct developmental phases....

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