In the United Kingdom, the term twin towns is most commonly used, generally referring to town-twinning with Europe, differentiating with the term sister cities, which is used for agreements with towns and cities in the Americas. In Europe, a variety of terms are used; most commonly twin towns, but partnership towns, partner towns and friendship towns, are also used. Germany and Poland use Partnerstadt (Ger.) / Miasto Partnerskie (Pol.) (Partner Town/City), France uses Ville Jumelée (Twinned Town/City), while Italy has gemellaggio (twinning) and comune gemellato (twinned municipality). In the Netherlands, the term Stedenband (City bond) is used. North America, South America, South Asia, and Australasia generally use the term sister cities. In China, the term friendship city (友好城市, yǒuhǎo chéngshì) is used, since Confucianism imbues kinship terms with a hierarchical connotation. In the former Soviet Bloc countries twin towns is used, as well as the term города-побратимы (Rus.) (sworn brother cities).[1]

Sometimes, other government bodies enter into a “twinning” relationship, such as the agreement between the provinces of Hainan in China and Jeju-do in South Korea.

The Douzelage is a town twinning association with one town from each of the member states of the European Union.[2]

The earliest form of town twinning in Europe was between the German city of Paderborn and the French city of Le Mans in 1836.[3] Keighley, West Yorkshire, England had a “sister cities” arrangement with Suresnes and Puteaux, France starting in 1905.[4][5] The first recorded modern twinning agreement was between Keighley and Poix-du-Nord, Nord, France in 1920 following the end of World War I.[5][6] This was initially referred to as an adoption of the French town, with formal twinning charters not being exchanged until 1986.[7]

The practice was continued after the Second World War as a way to bring European people into a closer understanding of each other and to promote cross-border projects of mutual benefit.[3][8][9] For example, Coventry twinned with Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and later with Dresden as an act of peace and reconciliation, all three cities having been heavily bombed during the war.[10] Each twin city country is represented in a specific ward of the city and in each ward has a peace garden dedicated to that twin city.[3] Another early example of town twinning dates back to 1947 when Bristol Corporation (later Bristol City Council) sent five ‘leading citizens’ on a goodwill mission to Hanover.

Within Europe, town twinning is supported by the European Union.[3] The support scheme was established in 1989. In 2003 an annual budget of about 12 million euros was allocated to about 1,300 projects. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions also works closely with the Commission (DG Education and Culture) to promote modern, high quality twinning initiatives and exchanges that involve all sections of the community. It has launched a website dedicated to town twinning.[11] Twinned towns are often chosen because of some similarity: thus about 15 towns in Wales are twinned with towns in Britanny, and Oxford is with other celebrated university towns: Bonn, Leiden, Grenoble and others.

Many German cities still are twinned with other German cities. The partnerships were established in the last years of former East Germany. Famous examples are the partnerships of Hanover and Leipzig (both having important trade fair grounds) or between Hamburg and Dresden.

The first US-German town twinning was in 1947 between Worthington and Crailsheim.

 North America

The first city in North America to establish a sister city relationship was Toledo, Ohio, United States with Toledo, Spain in 1931. Vancouver, British Columbia, was also a notable city to enter into an intercontinental twinning arrangement when, in 1944, it twinned with the Ukrainian city of Odessa, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. This was based on aiding the allied port city during the Second World War.

Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, then part of the Soviet Union, was twinned with Seattle, Washington in 1973 and became the first Soviet city to be twinned with one in the US. Another first for town twinning occurred in 1967 when Rochester, Minnesota and Knebworth, UK teamed up to bring a primary medical research front.[clarification needed]

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