A Twin Town, Sister City is a form of legal or social agreement between two cities. The purpose can vary but the basis is that cities or countries in different geographical areas shall foster cultural and commercial bonds.
The phenomenon of Twin Towns is relatively young and has its origin in the ending of the World War II. After the war, the friendships and the understanding between different cultures needed to enhance. Besides this there were also a lot of economic reasons. Increasing trade between parties was an attempt to increase the chances and will of tourism strengthening both cities. Twin cities also have a function to facilitate an exchange of labour and give incentive for a move.
Terminology and history
In America the term Sister City is the most common whilst in the UK Twin Towns is a more common way to express it. In other parts of Europe, a term that will translate like “friend towns”, which reflects more on the actual relationship between the cities. After World War II there were a lot of cross-border projects to restore roads and bridges between the former enemies. For example, the British town Coventry worked together with Stalingrad and later on with Dresden. The purpose was to make peace at the same time as making relations and at the same time give economic benefits to both sides. These three cities were all bombed during the war and had a lot to restore.
Support from the EU
In Europe, this kind of relationships between cities is supported by the European Union. They support, mainly with money. In the beginning of the 21th century no less than twelve million Euros were given to about 1300 different projects with this concept of sister cities. Today focus is mostly in the areas of culture, labour and education. Through studies, the conclusion has been made that the geographical distance between the cities has little to do with whether the concept is successful or not. The cooperation between the cities has turned out to be more successful if the cities have somewhat the same prerequisites when it comes to geographic placement and number of inhabitants. If the cities are somehow the same in terms of infrastructure, it is even more a basis to succeed.
Different reasons to Twin Towns
One of the odder reasons to become Sister Cities or Twin Towns has been made by the Scottish village Dull and the American village Boring. The reason is to attract tourists with allusions on the two names. Often there are political reasons to a union between cities. For example, the Hungarian city Gyöngyös was linked to the Azerbaijan city Susha in 2013. A mark on the fact that the town had been controlled by American military since the Karabakh war. An attempt to create solidarity between the town council of Preston, England and the city of Nablus in Palestine was made in 2003. The purpose was political, a part of recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state.
Annulment of twin- or sisterhood
In 2013 the Italian cities Milan, Venice and Turin annulled their former union to Sankt Petersburg. The reason was the Russian legislation on homosexuals. Activists in California encouraged the California inhabitants to do as the Italians and dissolve all forms of cooperation with Russia. Prague ended their cooperation with Moscow because of the military aggressions on Ukraine. Moscow had been the sister city to Prague since 1995.