The following statement on the discussion of a partnership with a city in Ukraine has now been sent to the mayor and to the parliamentary groups in the council of the city Rheine:
Dear Mr. Mayor,Ladies and Gentlemen Chairmen oftheparliamentary groups,the Board of the Association for the Promotion of Town Twinning of the City of Rheine has discussed in its meeting on November 15, 2022 about the publicly presented desire for a German-Ukrainian town twinning.
The decision on further twinning is up to the city council. In doing so, you should take into account the framework conditions and opportunities created by existing town twinning arrangements, as well as the experience we have gathered over many years. We have summarized these in the following jointly supported statement:
- The meetings of people within the framework of European town twinning are to be welcomed because they make it possible in a special way to gain international experience, to establish friendships and to promote cohesion in Europe. In town twinning, the focus has always been on bringing people together. Due to the Russian war of aggression, a German-Ukrainian town twinning, which is now also publicly demanded, can neither currently enable people to meet nor provide Ukraine with the urgently needed support for the upcoming winter.
- For the currently urgently needed assistance, even without an official partnership, there are now tried and tested ways opened up by town twinning and citizenship.
- A German-Ukrainian town twinning could develop its value only in a longer-term consideration. Thus, accompanying the Ukrainians on their “way to Europe” could be a meaningful objective, as we have practiced it with European support in the 1990s in the municipal network Bernburg, Borne, Rheine and Trakai. In the2000s, the twin city of Leiria joined the networkthrough joint effortsto protect the climate. Numerous people from the twin cities were involved.
- Even though the Federal President is currently calling on the municipalities to enter into town twinning arrangements with Ukrainian partners, a purely “national initiative” no longer seems appropriate to us. We sense again and again that uncoordinated German activities lead at least to irritation among European partners, if not to rejections. Therefore, when making your decision, please also consider what feelings and reactions this could trigger among our partners in Bernburg, Borne, Leiria and Trakai. Especially because Trakai itself already maintains a town twinning with Ivano Frankiwsk, the town favored by the initiators.
- Not only the Netzwerkstelle Städtepartnerschaften NRW, but also relevant organizations see the bilateral town twinning projects rather declining for years. In contrast, the number of multilateral town twinning and project partnerships is growing. City networks with a thematic or regional approach are also on the rise. The municipal network Rheine, Bernburg, Borne, Leiria and Trakai was among the first in Europe in the 1990s, was innovative, was promoted at the time in the projects for Trakai and is still fully in line with the trend of development today. Exemplary are the joint climate protection projects in the past years, the youth encounters or the current digital cooperation in the project “friendsineurope”.
- The path taken by the twinning association under the motto “Friends help friends”, in which we have so far provided donations amounting to €46,000 as aid for Ukraine via the twin city Trakai, is a contemporary and innovative path against the background of the arguments mentioned. Likewise we supported together with the city the admission of Ukrainian refugees by the twin city Leiria.
- Therefore, instead of an additional bilateral twinning, the council of the city Rheine should strengthen the existing municipal network Rheine, Bernburg, Borne, Leiria and Trakai and motivate it to bring a Ukrainian twin city Trakais into the network and accompany it on its way to Europe. For this no own city partnership between Rheine and the Ukrainian city must be locked, could result however medium or on a long-term basis, if also on Ukrainian side a civil commitment can be developed for it.
- Preliminary talks on this with the partners in Bernburg, Borne, Leiria and Trakai are necessary, however, and could lead to an enriching task for the network work that is already successful today.
- We give the mayor with its public statement expressly right: A purely “symbolic” resolution of the council to a new city partnership is not sufficient. Whoever wants such a municipal European cooperation must also provide the organizational and financial resources for it.We hope for your understanding and hope that our arguments will be taken into account in your decision-making process regarding the city’s further commitment to twinning.With best regards!
- Reiner WellmannChairman