What Characterises European Town Twinning in Denmark and the Netherlands? : Four Town Twinning Cases Examined
Abstract: Town twinning is a European phenomenon that occurs at the local level. Municipalities across Europe are collaborating across borders, involving politicians, officials, professionals, organisations, and citizens. This study investigates town twinning in specific cases of the Netherlands and Denmark by means of interviews with twinning officers in two cases from each country. The aims of the study are threefold: firstly, we wish to establish what characterises town twinning in these specific cases; and secondly, we wish to ascribe possible differences to the respective governance structures; thirdly, we aim to demonstrate to what extent European identity is of relevance to town twinning. Through qualitative semi-structured interviews we have observed that there are seven features that are of influence to town twinning practise: (1) there are various actors involved in twinning, varying between countries; (2) adequate evaluation of activities is lacking; (3) the municipal budget can be considered a key instrument; (4) European citizenship is of no value to the four cases; (5) key activities (official and citizen meetings) are based on tradition; (6) activities are facilitated by close proximity of the other twin town; (7) bottom-up and top-down forces are co-dependent. We have also discovered that the difference between Danish cases and Dutch cases with regard to the primary actor within the municipalities can be related to the way governance is structured at the local level in Denmark and the Netherlands. Furthermore, the local authorities’ dependency on national government has been discovered in the Dutch cases, even though regional forces steer municipal decisions in different ways. We may point into the direction of validity: as most town twinning activities are purely habitual and the added value is not assessed, there are serious validity issues with regard to the implementation of town twinning. Furthermore, the municipalities steer the continuation of town twinning while stating that bottom-up forces are ensuring its existence. It is recommended municipalities adopt measures for evaluation. The claimed irrelevance of European identity in town twinning has serious implications for the EU with regard to citizens’ support. We suggest improved accommodation in financial resources.
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