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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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In this book, the nature of involvement of local actors in Strasbourg in relation to the seat question of the European institutions has been investigated. This concerned the types of local actors in Strasbourg who were involved in welcoming the European institutions in the city, as well as which kinds of strategies they employed to consolidate the city’s position as European institution host. Those strategies principally regarded the institutions located in Strasbourg, but also indirectly the European Communities in the context of the nondecision in seat matters, and the French national government for support of Strasbourg’s status. The Council of Europe played an important role in the local actors’ efforts. Until 1957, the city administration concentrated on this organisation which was visible in the names of the two Liaison committees. When the Common Assembly of the ECSC was more strongly included in the context of the second seat application round from 1957 onwards, the same measures were applied to it as during PACE sessions and both organisations were dubbed institutions européennes. The lavish celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the CoE were exploited for the seat question of the European Communities, as well.

Most European integration literature focuses nearly exclusively on the intergovernmental decision processes of determining the seat. This study fills a lacuna in the discipline with a comprehensive case study of local activity regarding European institutions in Strasbourg. Therefore, it provides an important aspect on the history of European institutions.


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