Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Town twinning

Town Twinning - 13.05.2009

Another urban myth is laid to rest : contrary to what has been published or broadcast around the world these last days, Yes you can un-twin!
A number of media.including the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and FR3, quoted the mayor of Wallingford (UK) as saying that he had contacted the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) to ask how to 'un-twin" from its twin partner town in France, and that CEMR told him that they 'did not have a policy to sever ties" and 'it wasn't their job" to de-twin. CEMR, it was suggested 'weren't interested in sorting out the problem".
The Daily Telegraph went one step further stating that 'now comes the farcical part. The twinning relationship cannot be discontinued, according to CEMR.... You can twin, but you cannot de-twin". After attacking CEMR's new twinning website, the paper added that 'it would make hilarious reading if the CEMR were not responsible for disbursing over 10 million euros a year..." on twinning grants.
There is just one problem - all of the key facts are wrong.
Fact one, the mayor of Wallingford, Alec Hayton, never contacted us, says CEMR secretary general Jeremy Smith. I called him after the first stories started appearing in British media, and he confirmed to me that he had never spoken to anyone at CEMR. He added that he was as bemused as us when he read how he was quoted in a number of newspapers.
Fact two, yes you can un-twin. Just as it only takes the local council's decision for a town to create a twinning partnership with another town, it only takes the local council's decision to put an end to it. This is stated on CEMR's town twinning website available in 23 languages:
-Moreover, though this is rare, a local authority may at any moment put an end to the partnership by means of deliberation of the city council annulling the twinning's ratification.'
Fact three, CEMR has never been responsible for "disbursing over 10 million euros a year" on twinning grants - this is the task of the European Commission. We do not disburse even one cent a year on such grants.
On 8 May, we asked the Daily Telegraph to print our response to their inaccurate articles as the UK's Press Complaints Commission requires them to do. So far, the only reply we have received says it has been forwarded to their Letters for publication section!
It is estimated that there are about 17,000 European twinnings. Twinning has played an important role not only in building peace and understanding after 1945, but at every stage in the enlargement of the European Union. UK - Polish twinnings, for example, provide excellent examples of positive co-operation. Today CEMR especially encourages twinnings with partners from the western Balkans.

CEMR, which has for over 50 years promoted the town twinning movement, believes that twinning is constantly evolving in line with local authorities' needs and concerns. A look at the 'partner search" section on CEMR's town twinning website shows that towns are eager to establish twinnings on a wide range of issues including business, education, the environment, economic development, and culture.
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