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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 4. Building Capacity to Cope


223 Chapter 4 Building Capacity to Cope Building infrastructure for the European institutions was the third major theme of strategies of the various local actors to bind the EP and CoE to the city and to strengthen its position in the EC seat question. Especially during the 1970s, this became an important strategy, since the closet competition Brussels and Luxembourg executed similar large- scale projects in what could be described as a ‘building race’. While air links also were a main activity during the decade, a concentration on buildings within Strasbourg was apparent. This was especially the case for the Immeuble Parlementaire Européenne (IPE) in the context of the competition with Brussels and Luxembourg. During the 1950s and 1960s, hosting measures and the improvement of transportation systems took precedence over construction activities as the central focus of local actors. Nevertheless, the creation of a building infrastructure was also employed as a strategy in these two decades, however, only in a lesser quantity. For example, in order to finalise the official decision to construct the C block, an office building for the EP in 1959, the following statement of Mayor Pflimlin was recorded in the minutes. “M. le Maire estime qu’il convient d’attacher une importance particulière à ce projet: son exécution rapide et conforme aux desiderata est peut-être la seule chance pour Strasbourg que la situation provisoire se consolide.”1 It indicated that local actors regarded the fulfilling of concrete wishes as essential to remain a seat contender....

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