Many UK cities, and also smaller communities and groups, have long-standing partnership or ‘twinning’ links with counterparts in the EU. The UK’s departure from the EU provides an opportunity to revisit, renew and revitalise these important community-level relationships as well as potentially forge new ones. The term ‘European Local Partnerships’ is preferred to ‘twinning’ as the latter has sometimes – mostly wrongly – had negative connotations, especially in local media.
Such European Local Partnerships provide an important vehicle to maintain and further strengthen people-to-people links and generate political support for forging closer ties again with the EU. Such ELPs promote European awareness, economic and cultural links and cooperation at local community level.
Work to be done
A working group has been set up with these aims:
- To actively engage individual UK local governments, business/private sector, community organisations and citizens with their European counterparts.
- To help strengthen, reactivate and, where appropriate, create new ELPs throughout the UK, building wherever possible on previously established ELP/twinning links at community, city/town and other levels (eg parish).
The initial work programme of the Group has been:
- Inventory of existing UK ELPs/twinning links, both formal (such as city-to-city partnerships) and informal (community/schools/faith/ cultural links etc) including details of responsible contact persons.
This work, involving a questionnaire and online research was accomplished in 2021 and has resulted in valuable data showing the remarkable extent of continuing partnerships at every level, whether schools, local community groups or local councils (including business links).
- Identification of key topics for ELP exchanges such as climate action/‘Green Deal’ strategies; post-Covid economic recovery/ business cooperation; sustainable development/ biodiversity; migration/human rights; education/youth; arts/culture; and sport.
This remains work in progress, but an early conclusion is that such topics as climate change and the European Green Deal will engage the public and especially young people more than traditional ‘twinning’ initiatives and there is a strong case for encouraging exchanges (often by zoom) on such topical issues.
- Up to six case studies of successful, diverse, ELPs documenting their experiences including their key topics, youth engagement, media strategy, funding sources etc.
Members of the Group have provided information on their own partnership activities (for example, Bath, Glasgow, Leeds, Kent) and a new Partnership/twinning webpage is planned.
- A checklist for undertaking successful ELPs
Such a checklist is beginning to emerge out of the research being done, but still requires formalisation.
2023 Work Programme
It has been agreed that the focus should be on three broad categories of partnership:
Informal partnerships formed by private individuals and members of a club or community-based association (sport, cultural activity etc) with shared events such as lectures, competitions, concerts or simply social activities. Such enthusiasts will have an interest in the culture and/or language of the partner and aim to enrich the life of their own organisation, thereby creating an additional benefit to membership of it.
Pupil and student exchanges which are a much-loved aspect of growing up. They stimulate interest in learning the language of the country where the partner establishment is located and in a broader sense develop an enlightened awareness of world citizenship. In addition to benefiting young people, they enhance the lives of their teachers, parents and related groups involved in organising the exchanges. Unfortunately, following Brexit access was cut to eTwinning, and Erasmus, two schemes which promoted school and university collaboration in Europe.
Partnerships between Towns and Cities (‘Twinning’) have been a feature of civic life ever since the post-war period. There are over a thousand such relationships between towns and cities in the UK with Towns and Cities in the EU alone, with many being twinned with multiple partners.
All the success factors which apply to informal partnerships and those between educational establishments are even more relevant when it comes to Council-to-Council partnerships. This is because, apart from Councillors, numerous other individuals and organisations may be involved in the relationship.
The larger City partnerships may well also be driven by commercial objectives and involve business representatives and employers. Official funding and permanent staff may be required for these relationships to perform successfully.
Now that the Working Group has accomplished much of its original aims, it is looking to promote the concept of ELPs and see it integrated into wider policy initiatives and events.
For further information, contact: [email protected]