Town twinning is a concept whereby towns or cities in geographically and politically distinct areas are paired, with the goal of fostering human contact and cultural links. In the European Union, such pairs of towns are known as friendship towns or partner towns and twin towns in the UK. In North America, India, Australasia and Asia, the term sister cities is used for the same concept and brother cities is the term in the former Soviet bloc. Sister cities often (though by no means always) have similar demographic and other characteristics. Sometimes, even larger areas enter into "twinning" agreements, such as that between the provinces of Hainan in China and Jeju in South Korea.
The earliest form of town twinning in Europe was between the German city of Paderborn and the French city of Le Mans in 836, although this was not officially established as a modern town twinning arrangement until 1967.
The practice was continued after the Second World War as a way to bring European people into a closer understanding of each other and to promote cross-border projects of mutual benefit. For example, Coventry twinned with Dresden as an act of peace and reconciliation, both cities having been heavily bombed during the war. Each twin city country is represented in a specific ward of the city and in each ward has a peace garden dedicated to that twin city. Another early example of town twinning dates back to 1947 when Bristol Corporation (later Bristol City Council) sent five 'leading citizens' on a goodwill mission to Hanover. While still more popular as a concept in Europe than elsewhere, the idea has now spread to other continents.
Within Europe, town twinning is now supported by the European Union. The support scheme was established in 1989. In 2003 an annual budget of about 12 million euros was allocated to about 1,300 projects. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions also works closely with the Commission (DG Education and Culture) to promote modern, high quality twinning initiatives and exchanges that involve all sections of the community.
E.U. sister cities are a separate affiliation from the international sister cities association.
The American "Sister Cities" program was begun in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. It was originally administered as part of the National League of Cities, but since 1967 it has been a separate organization, Sister Cities International (SCI), which is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between U.S. and international communities in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate private business and economic development. SCI leads the movement for local community development and volunteer action by motivating and empowering private citizens, municipal officials and business leaders to conduct long-term programs of mutual benefit.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PUTS TOWN TWINNING, REMEMBRANCE OF EUROPE'S HISTORY AND CIVIL SOCIETY DEBATE ABOUT EUROPE AT THE HEART OF NEW "EUROPE FOR CITIZENS' PROGRAMME.
Dec 14, 2011; BRUSSELS -- The following information was released by the European Union: Today, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a...