The practice of town twinning developed after the Second World War. It was a public movement to reconcile European communities and foster a united and peaceful Europe. Julia Grosspietsch’s article in Geography Compass charts the development of the town twinning movement through different phases over the decades. She shows that there are many different conceptions of town twinning and a diverse range of activities which come under its remit, including mutual visits of local politicians, food and culture festivals, student exchanges and promotion of business links.
After sixty years, town twinning shows no signs of fatigue or decline. Indeed, when the European Commission’s ‘Golden Stars of Active European Citizenship’ were awarded recently, four of the eight winners were town twinning projects. One of these was the municipality of Gyomaendrod in Hungary, which organised a series of events related to women’s participation in political life with partners from Romania, Germany, Poland and Slovakia.
The ideals of town twinning such as cross-cultural exchange, celebration of diversity, international friendship and civic participation are all well and good, but town twinning activities are not without cost. In December, local journalists in Surrey uncovered the costs of town twinning to councils. For example, in and around Woking more than £15,000 was spent over the last five years on entertaining dignitaries from Europe. Spending council money on plane tickets and garden parties, however, does not necessarily meet with approval from local taxpayers.