Global network at local level

The city of Cologne has 24 twin towns around the world – and it would like more.

Cologne – an open-minded city on the Rhine
Cologne – an open-minded city on the Rhine picture alliance / Zoonar

The city of Cologne has always been characteristically open-minded and tolerant. Its inhabitants come from 181 different nations, and they generally live together peacefully. So it is only understandable that Cologne lives out its values in international exchanges as well. Cologne has 24 twin cities, including two German ones, and that’s a record number in Germany. But now the city would like more: It is looking in southern Africa and Ukraine for two appropriate cities. “For us these partnerships are always an expression of our desire to for understanding between peoples,” says Alessandra Caroli, head of the mayor’s office and responsible for the European and International Relations section. “School, sport, and cultural exchanges are just as much a part of the arrangement, as is the desire to address challenges together, such as climate protection and finding solutions at a local level.”

Partnerships since 1952

The first twinning scheme was agreed in 1952, with Liverpool. Six years later this was followed by a ring partnership agreement between seven cities from the same number of countries. “At that time the main aim was to lay the foundations for reconciliation following World War Two,” says Alessandra Caroli.

Cologne takes a stand: Carnival and protest against the invasion of Ukraine go hand in hand.
Cologne takes a stand: Carnival and protest against the invasion of Ukraine go hand in hand.
picture alliance / Flashpic

The partnership with Bethlehem in the West Bank in 1996 was groundbreaking. It enabled special forms of dialogue, thanks to the already existing partnership with Tel Aviv. “At that time we were the first city to enter into partnership with a Palestinian municipality,” says the deputy head of the office for European and International Relations, Sabine Miesseler. “The partnership with Bethlehem was also designed to promote contributions to the Middle East peace process at local level within the German-Israeli-Palestinian triangle.” And how is Cologne dealing with its partnership with Volgograd in Russia following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine? “We have put official contacts on hold for the time being,” Caroli explains. “But we are continuing our civil society involvement, for instance a project funded by Cologne that provides social and medical support for former forced labourers.”

Cologne has developed a large, widespread network.

Alessandra Caroli, city of Cologne

And how does this benefit the people? Caroli: “Cologne has developed a large, widespread network. It connects people across borders around the world and enables plentiful exchanges. This is invaluable to everyone involved.”

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