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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 3. "L’Europe vient à Strasbourg"


175 Chapter 3 L’Europe vient à Strasbourg Traffic infrastructure was the second theme of strategies to consolidate Strasbourg’s position as seat. The heading of this chapter, l’Europe vient à Strasbourg, was the title of a brochure containing timetables for all air links with which to reach the city, the municipal government distributed to European parliamentarians from the mid-1960s onwards.1 It is a well- suited slogan for the efforts of local actors in this area. This had long been a concern for improvement, not only of city actors, but also in the CoE. In a PACE resolution from 2004, a need for improved air and train links still is assessed in order to fully honour its potential as seat city.2 This assessment is congruent with a statement the CoE made in 1957: “If Strasbourg wishes to retain, let alone develop, its status as a European centre, a considerable effort, probably with state assistance will be required to remedy the present situation.”3 Prior to that year, Strasbourg had had no air traffic of note. During the 1960s, the nearest major airports Frankfurt and Zurich that offered connections to other European countries, both slightly more than 200 kilometres away, remained important transport hubs for access to the city. Improvements had the goal of consolidating the city’s status as seat city, similar to the area of hosting measures. As with hosting activities, further developments of traffic infrastructure were conditioned by anticipated and concrete demands of European parliamentarians. They strongly influenced the activities of local actors....

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