Parish partnership

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Signpost to Opole's twin cities

A community partnership - also town twinning or Jumelage  - is a partnership between two cities, communities or regions ( twin cities etc.) with the aim of exchanging cultural and economic information. International municipal partnerships are also used as a platform to support democratization in states in which the rule of law and freedom are not yet considered to have been achieved (“local foreign policy”). Most partnerships exist between cities and municipalities in different countries. After primarily West German municipalities became the sponsor cities for places in the eastern regions , German-German city and municipality partnerships in connection with reunification made important contributions to the growing together. A weaker form of town twinning is town friendship . It is usually limited in time or only relates to certain projects in a relationship. An even weaker form is city ​​contact , which is only a loose relationship between two cities or municipalities.


50 years of town twinning (1997)
Wall sculpture of Munich's twin cities in the New Town Hall

Historically, the town twinning between Le Mans and Paderborn was mentioned in a document in 836; but an official town twinning was not established until 1967.

Since 1913, Brugg ( Switzerland ) and Rottweil ( Baden-Wuerttemberg ) have had a friendship between cities (meanwhile city partnership) in connection with Rottweil's affiliation to the old Swiss Confederation as an associated place . The men's choirs of both cities gave the impetus for this with mutual visits.

In 1921 the British Keighley , West Yorkshire , and Poix-du-Nord in the French department Nord entered into a city relationship in the form that the British city "adopted" the French; an official partnership took place in 1986.

For the first time in 1925, an official city partnership between Kiel and Sønderborg was concluded. The next one was sealed between Wiesbaden and Klagenfurt in 1930 .

Local foreign policy

After the Second World War , starting in 1947, the British occupiers established friendly relations between German and British cities in order to enable international understanding “from below”. In addition, they promoted the integration of Germany into the new European community of values. The first examples are the partnerships between Bonn , Düsseldorf and Hanover with Oxford , Reading and Bristol , respectively . In 2012 , however, the city council in the British Bishop's Stortford announced the partnership with Friedberg in Hesse after 46 years . It is also on hold between Westerkappeln in the Münsterland and Bathmen , as this Dutch municipality was incorporated into the neighboring city of Deventer in 2005 . From a practical point of view , Leinsweiler ended the relationship with Gerjen that had existed since 2003 in 2011 .

The first German-American town twinning between Crailsheim and Worthington was established in the state of Baden-Württemberg in 1947 . In 1950 the first town twinning with a town in France was sealed. At that time, the city ​​of Ludwigsburg took on a twinning with the French city of Montbéliard ( town twinning between Ludwigsburg and Montbéliard ). Montbéliard, in German Mömpelgard, was a Württemberg exclave in France for a long time . In the period that followed, more and more cities in Germany established friendly relationships with cities in other countries.

On September 29, 1977 , Wuppertal was the first major German city to seal a friendship agreement with the Israeli city ​​of Be'er Scheva . On the German side, contacts are organized by a group of friends.

The matter is resolved very diplomatically in Geneva .

European cooperation

In 1951, at a time when the idea of ​​a united Europe was not yet at the center of the political debate, 50 mayors of German and French cities founded the Council of European Municipalities in Geneva , since 1984 the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR). Among other things, the Council has set itself the task of promoting reconciliation between the peoples of Europe and local cooperation across national borders. This provided an international basis for developing town twinning in Europe. The German section of the CEMR, which was founded in 1955 and whose president is expected to be the Lord Mayor of Karlsruhe , Dr. Frank Mentrup is based at the German Association of Cities in Cologne . France, Germany and Poland have the most connections in the European town twinning movement.


In 1979 the dictator Somoza in Nicaragua was driven out by a popular uprising. The solidarity movement in Europe and the USA has given political support; in the 1980s, more city partnerships were initiated to support development in Nicaragua. Numerous Nicaraguan and German cities are closely linked through city partnerships and friendships.

Opening of the iron curtain

Signing of the Dresden – Hamburg partnership agreement (1988)

As early as 1959 there was contact between the GDR district town of Gera and Saint-Denis (France); Karl-Marx-Stadt and Arras followed in 1967. Representatives of Wuppertal broke new ground in 1980 and signed a partnership agreement with Košice . This made Wuppertal the first West German city to establish partnership relationships with a city in what was then Czechoslovakia . In a politically divided Europe this became a model case for town twinning between East and West. The driving force behind this was the then Wuppertal city councilor Klaus Kriesche , born in Czechoslovakia. The then Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher , member of the German Bundestag for a Wuppertal constituency and political friend of Kriesche, provided support at the federal level. On the Košice side, the multiple Lord Mayor Košices (1983–1986, 1994–1999) and later President of Slovakia (1999–2004) Rudolf Schuster played a key role. As part of this town twinning, an event took place in 1987 that has never existed before: the Wuppertal-Košice friendship run over a distance of 1765 kilometers was a cross-border demonstration for the peaceful dialogue between East and West, organized by local politicians and committed citizens like Alfred Howad and the winner of the Olympic gold medal Emil Zátopek .

The Friends in the Heart of Europe association should also be mentioned in this context .

German reunification

From the mid-1980s, the loosening of the Iron Curtain enabled partnership relationships between FRG and GDR communities. At the beginning it was a politically explosive matter. On April 25, 1986 in Eisenhüttenstadt of the same year and on September 19, Saarlouis sealed the first German-German twinning, mainly due to the mediation of the then Saarland Prime Minister Oskar Lafontaine and born in the Saarland Chairman of the State Council Erich Honecker was due . The second German-German town twinning was agreed on November 26, 1986 in Lübben in the Spreewald and on December 12, 1986 in Neunkirchen in Saarland.

Also Wuppertal closed early partnered with an East German city, namely Schwerin . In order to make an active contribution to good neighborly relations between the two parts of Germany, the contracts were signed on February 9, 1987 in Wuppertal and on February 26, 1987 in Schwerin after sometimes tough negotiations.

Something similar happened in Aachen . Since 1985, the local council tried to establish a town partnership with a municipality in the former GDR. Through the mediation of the Aachen art collector Peter Ludwig , who brought his personal acquaintance with Erich Honecker to the exploratory process, a connection to the city of Naumburg was established. The exchange was initially limited to official meetings without the participation of citizens. The partnership certificate was signed in Aachen on May 30, 1988.

After the reunification of Germany , town twinning was concluded between East and West municipalities or East and West districts, which primarily served to support the East German municipalities / districts in the changes in politics and economy. In this respect, German-German town twinning has made indispensable contributions to the encounter and the growing together of people in all parts of Germany. For example, the city of Aachen provided Naumburg with competent and financial support in setting up a new administration. Aachen companies and groups were involved in a variety of ways in the twin city. Immediately after the contract was renewed in January 1990, the Aachen-Naumburg Citizens' Committee was founded as the “Association for the Promotion of the Aachen-Naumburg City Partnership”. V. “founded.

German-Belgian Sister City Day

Since 2009 there has been a German-Belgian Sister City Day, which is intended as a single event to celebrate the around 130 town twinning between the two neighboring countries.


Several thousand cities and municipalities in Germany maintain partnership relationships with the same in Germany or abroad. In the meantime, cities outside of Europe have also increasingly been included. The German section of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions maintains an online database of the existing partnerships, friendships and contacts in German municipalities (cities, municipalities and districts).

Establishing a partnership

Partnership document for the town twinning between Gütersloh and Falun

In the run-up to the establishment of a partnership, it is usually checked whether there are already private contacts between citizens, local municipal politicians or schools to a municipality abroad, which could possibly be intensified and then result in a town twinning. If such contacts do not exist, municipalities “willing to partner” are also mediated by supra-local organizations. Many cities wishing to enter into an international partnership are also published on the website of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. Model contracts for partnerships are also published here.

If different criteria apply - the distance is also important - the top management, the mayor or the municipal council will visit and make a corresponding return visit. A positive response usually leads to the formal acceptance of a town twinning, which is sealed with the signing of the partnership document.

In the following years, depending on the commitment of the cities, annual visits are often organized. The initiative for this comes either from the city administration or occasionally from associations. The visitors should usually be accommodated with private hosts, which promotes the growing together of the peoples. If clubs take part in such an exchange, joint events, such as competitions (with sports clubs) or concerts (with music clubs or choirs) are often organized.

The city of Osnabrück is taking a hitherto unique way of making its city partnerships lively and alive : It exchanges so-called city ​​ambassadors with its partner cities . These are young people who live in the respective twin city for a year and work in its administration. There they fulfill all tasks that arise in connection with the town twinning.

Municipalities that maintain intensive European partnership contacts can also apply for awards from the Council of Europe . There are the following types of honors for this European Prize : “European Diploma”, “Flag of Honor”, ​​“European Badge” and “European Prize”. These are awarded in stages, so that an application for the European diploma must first be made. If this is granted, the municipality can later apply for the flag of honor etc.

Reasons for city and community partnerships

Partnership garden in
Cholon (Israel)

The sense and purpose of city and community partnerships is the voluntary coming together of people across borders. In the past, cities therefore looked around for corresponding twin cities. The size of the city or municipality, its structure (e.g. rural or industrial municipality) and, for example, the club life play a special role.

Twinning between Dull and Boring
City partnership Zalaegerszeg (Hungary)

In many cases the partnership is based on common characteristics of cities and municipalities:

Identity or similarity of names

Personal relationships

Economic and geographic similarity

Place of work / birthplace of great poets

Similar story

Similar cultural festivals

Workplace of important personalities

Coming to terms with the past / reconciliation

Religious relationships

EU partnerships

Expert exchange

  • Municipalities have specific knowledge and skills, for example in the provision of general services for water, sewage and disposal, but also in setting up population registers and in connection with housekeeping. This expertise is used in partnership work.

In addition, there are also town partnerships in which development policy aspects or the Local Agenda 21 are in the foreground (so-called municipal development partnerships, north-south partnerships or agenda partnerships and climate partnerships):

Local Agenda 21

Municipal development partnership

Municipalities at the four ends of Germany (" Zipfelbund "): List on Sylt in the north, Oberstdorf in the south, Selfkant in the west, Görlitz in the east

However, there are also examples where opposites apply:

Municipal development partnerships

Local development partnerships are an important part of German development policy . Cooperation between German municipalities and municipalities in the Global South helps to find sustainable solutions to global challenges such as climate change, migration and urbanization. Over 650 municipalities in Germany maintain relationships with cities, districts and communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Southeast Europe.

The first partnerships between municipalities in Germany and the Global South emerged in the 1960s. In the past, the reasons for a partnership were often politically motivated or shaped by the idea of ​​providing help, but the focus is often on creating sustainable development. In line with Goal 17 of Agenda 2020 “Partnerships for the Achievement of the Goals”, projects are implemented that offer sustainable solutions in line with the United Nations' Agenda 2030 .

When working with municipalities in the Global South, German municipalities receive financial and advisory support from the Service Agency for Municipalities in One World from Engagement Global on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The BMZ also promotes development partnerships with the private sector. Such partnerships often lead to larger programs, for example the expansion of economic and social infrastructure or the improvement of drinking water supply and wastewater disposal. Research has shown that city mayors play an active role in city diplomacy.

The forms of cooperation with municipalities in the Global South are diverse: they range from international networking in the context of events to temporary projects to long-term city partnerships. All actors benefit from the cooperation and the exchange of expertise in development partnerships:

  • Intercultural competence is strengthened through the transfer of knowledge and the exchange of experience.
  • Citizens are made aware of the connections between global issues and local sustainability.
  • Citizens also learn to better understand immigrants and their origins. The collaboration thus also supports integration.

Triangular partnerships

Trilateral partnership

Multilateral city partnerships are the New Hanseatic League and some connections between cities that call themselves European cities .


The city with the most city partnerships in Germany is Cologne with 24 partnerships. Behind this are Berlin (17), Darmstadt (15) and Nuremberg (14), but most major German cities have fewer than 10 town twinning. As the only major German city, Ulm has no official twin city. Town twinning is much more common among Austrian cities; Outstanding are Linz with 18 and Klagenfurt with 16; in Switzerland, however, this institution is not very widespread. France and Poland make up around fifty percent of the partner municipalities of German cities, municipalities and districts.

See also


  • Corine Defrance / Tanja Herrmann / Pia Nordblom (eds.), Town twinning in Europe in the 20th century. Wallstein: Göttingen 2020, ISBN 978-3-8353-3211-9 .
  • Kai Pfundheller: Town twinning - alternative foreign policy of the municipalities. Barbara Budrich. Opladen / Berlin / Toronto 2014, ISBN 978-3-8474-0159-9 .
  • Rolf Massin: "The way to get together - history and stories of selected European city partnerships . Anno-Verlag, Ahlen 2014, ISBN 978-3-939256-19-9 .
  • Lucie Filipová: Hope fulfilled: town twinning as an instrument of Franco-German reconciliation, 1950–2000 , From the Czech original: Francouzi a Němci na cestě ke sblížení , translated by Nina Lohmann (= IEG - Institute for European History : Publications of the Institute for European History Mainz , Volume 237: Department for Universal History ), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-10139-1 (Revised dissertation Charles University Prague 2012, 409 pages, graphic representations).
    • Francouzi a Němci na cestě ke sblížení: partnerství měst a obcí (1950–2000) , Academia, Praha, 2013, ISBN 978-80-200-2217-2 (dissertation Charles University Prague 2012, 450 pages, abstract in German and French) .
  • Kai U. Jürgens : "The trace is the mother of the road." Tallinn and Kiel - The story of a twinning . Ludwig Verlag, Kiel 2006, ISBN 3-937719-44-X .
  • Albert Statz , Charlotte Wohlfarth: Municipal partnerships and networks. A contribution to a transnational policy of sustainability , Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung , Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86928-028-8 ( Download ; PDF; 1.1 MB)
  • Antonia Stock: “Town twinning and intercultural encounters - selected German cities and their partners abroad”. Master's thesis in International Information Management. University of Hildesheim. Department III Information and Communication Sciences. Hildesheim 2005. Download (PDF; 2.3 MB) -
  • Nicki Pawlow : "Inner German city partnerships" . Verlag Gebr. Holzapfel, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-921226-37-6

Web links

Commons : town twinning in Germany  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sister-city partnership  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Town twinning - an instrument of “local foreign policy” of towns and municipalities. Retrieved September 5, 2016 .
  2. ^ City partnerships at
  3. See: Winfried Hecht: Rottweil. In: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz .; Partnership with the city of Brugg. (No longer available online.) City of Rottweil, October 22, 2004, archived from the original on April 9, 2014 ; Retrieved February 11, 2013 .
  4. ^ Susan Handley: Take your partners: The local authority handbook on international partnerships. In: Local Government International Bureau, London. 2006, p. 4 , archived from the original on July 17, 2011 ; accessed on January 15, 2017 .
  5. ^ Annemie Buchloh: town twinning . In: The City Day. Messages of the German Association of Cities 13 (1960), p. 437ff.
    German Association of Cities (Ed.): The Association of Cities. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1968, p. 287 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
    Günter Püttner: Handbook of communal science and practice: Volume 2: Communal constitution. 2nd edition, Springer, Berlin / New York 2007, ISBN 3-540-10993-5 , p. 510 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
    Hans-Jörg Bücking: Development cooperation in the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-428-09425-5 , p. 70 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  6. End of a relationship. Retrieved August 11, 2014 .
  7. Faded Friendship Westfälische Nachrichten January 15, 2020
  8. ^ Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR). Retrieved August 11, 2014 .
  9. ^ Council of the Municipalities and Regions of Europe - Homepage. Retrieved May 5, 2020 .
  10. a b CEMR: The latest figures on town twinning in Europe. Retrieved August 11, 2014 .
  11. German Embassy Managua - town twinning. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on August 12, 2014 ; Retrieved August 12, 2014 .
  12. ^ City partnership Kosice and Wuppertal: Filled with life. (No longer available online.) Formerly in the original ; Retrieved January 11, 2012 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  13. Kaiserlinden as a memorial for Alfred Howad and Emil Zátopek. Retrieved June 12, 2016 .
  14. Uta Rüchel: Schwerin - Wuppertal: From the beginnings of a cross-border partnership , paperback, Schwerin 2012 ( Memento from August 12, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  15. a b Database of municipal partnerships
  16. Bergentreffen
  17. Florence on
  18. ^ TÜ-Kilchberg and Kilchberg ZH: Background
  20. ^ City partnership Treptow-Köpenick - Cajamarca / Peru
  21. ^ Aachen-Cape Town Partnership Aachen - Cape Town
  22. ^ Association for the promotion of the city partnership Kreuzberg - San Rafael del Sur eV
  23. Lexicon of superlatives . Extraordinary and curious things from the world of records - 2000 edition. Bertelsmann, 2000, ISBN 3-577-10431-7 .
  24. ↑ Linked in partnership. In: . Welt-Sichten, magazine for global development and ecumenical cooperation, accessed on September 9, 2019 .
  25. Strong municipal partners. How cities, municipalities and counties are committed to global sustainability. In: Welt-Sichten, Dossier 7-2019. World views. Global Development and Ecumenical Cooperation Magazine, accessed September 9, 2019 .
  26. Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. Retrieved September 9, 2019 .
  27. Country and regional partnerships. In: . Retrieved September 9, 2019 .
  28. Integrated development partnerships . Retrieved September 9, 2019 .
  29. Burksiene V., Dvorak J., Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili G. (2020) City Diplomacy in Young Democracies: The Case of the Baltics. In: Amiri S., Sevin E. (eds) City Diplomacy. Palgrave Macmillan Series in Global Public Diplomacy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  30. Dialog Global Partners for One World - Design and Use of Communal Partnerships. In: Dialog Global No. 9. Accessed September 9, 2019 .
  31. ^ Werner Theis: Partnership agreement between the cities of Nantes - Tbilisi - Saarbrücken, in: City partnership Saarbrücken - Nantes 1965 to 1987 . Ed .: State capital Saarbrücken, Office for Council Affairs. Saarbrücken 1988.
  32. ^ Page of the town twinning association of Witzenhausen
  33. ^ Agreement of partnership between the three cities
  34. Annick Ehmann: City partnerships: Where our friends live Time online May 20, 2019, accessed on August 22, 2020
  35. ^ Christian Rau , Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Berlin, Berlin Department: Review of H-Soz-Kult, August 11, 2015
  36. ^ Charles University