Report on International Twinning Symposium held in Brussels

Saturday 13 April – Monday 15 April 2002.

We are indebted to David Warhurst of Poole-Cherbourg Twinning Association for providing the following report:

The Symposium was organised by the Dorset –La Manche office. About 80 delegates from Dorset and La Manche plus 3 delegates from Austria attended the Symposium on the Sunday in the Arlequin Hotel and on the Monday at the European Parliament Building.

The sessions were jointly chaired by Mr John Peake (Chairman of Dorset County Council) and Monsieur Michel Laurent (Mayor Beaumont-Hague, La Manche), seen above.

An opportunity was also available for an official visit to Brussels City Hall on the Friday and a visit on the Sunday to the Battlefield area of Waterloo, with time to explore the visitor centre and museums.

1st Session.

A general discussion took place on the specified themes.

·        Although a few new ideas were voiced there was a consensus that the best way forward to get youth involvement in twinning was increasing the awareness to the young people through schools and specifically in sports was through the clubs and associations within the twin towns.

·        Twinning committees generally did not have the resources or expertise to get involved with commercial situations.

·        It was generally felt that the use of websites and e mail was the most efficient way of improving communications with each other and local populations. The Dorset Twinning Website was highlighted as a good example. The best way to communicate with young people was within schools were the responsibility the head teacher to co-operate.

·        With regards to work placements this again was suggested that it was not the role of a twinning committee.

In general the overriding opinion was that twinning was best at providing the opportunity for people to experience the contact with others in different counties.

The main problem in achieving this aim was the lack of funding.

2nd Session.

The second session took place in the European Parliament Building where a number of MEPs representing the South West, and representatives from the South West Brussels Office and the Lower Normandy Brussels Office along with Local Government International Bureau in Brussels were invited. They had been previously briefed on the themes for discussion.

·        Mr Glyn Ford (Labour) and Mr Graham Watson (Liberal Democrat) gave presentations on their responsibilities and answered questions from the delegates. On funding they agreed there was much ‘Red Tape’ concerned with form filling and rules for obtaining the money for use within twinning. They blamed much of this on the European Treaty. Training was available for twinning officers.

·        The representatives from The South West  (James Stafford) and Lower Normandy Brussels Office (Adeline Jacob) also explained their work and were much closer to twinning and indicated that they could help with twinning aspects. They had a budget of 12,000 Euros available for 2003. The SW Office E mail address is:

·        The representative from the LGIB (Richard Kitt) stated that they had 3 staff in Brussels and 22 staff based in London. He gave a presentation on the advantages of twinning and said that they co-ordinate the UK twinning activities. They had been successful in lobbying for the increase in the budget and removing the 250 km limit.

·        Mr Giles Chichester (Conservative) said that there was no easy answer for obtaining funding. The rules and criteria must be studied. Unfortunately the rules and requirements can change from year to year which does not always help. He believed the money should be used to start up twinning activities. He was challenged from the a delegate on this point indicating that funding should also be used for travelling to maintain links and allow twinning to take place otherwise they could die out.

Mr Chichester finished by saying that twinning should enable people from the various countries to get together and have fun!

In conclusion it was felt that to have the symposium in Brussels was very positive and enabled twinning to be brought to the attention of some influential people with the chance of meeting and putting relevant questions face to face.

It was agreed that the Brussels symposium was very successful. There are plans for a further symposium to take place in 2003.

We are indebted to Gina Wilcox of Poole-Cherbourg Twinning Association for providing the following report:

Our thanks go to:

Tony Watts for organising the Conference
John Peake, Chairman of D.C.C. and Chairman for the day
Michel Laurent, member of La Manche Council
Jacques LePrieur, Charge de Mission 
Monique Leroy, who at very short notice, acted as interpreter 
for the day.

Dorset Twin Town Association
* 2 0 0 2 *
Brussels Conference
13th - 15th April 2002

Attendance: 37 Dorset delegates ( 11 youth members )
30 French delegates ( )
4 Austrian and Rumanian delegates

Sunday 14th April: 
Session 1: How to increase youth involvement including sports events
and exchanges.

Key points: Any joint interest will promote friendship;
Sport encourages competition rather than friendship;
Music and drama work well together;
David Kenyon ( music adviser for Dorset ) uses existing
links to foster music festivals;

Suggestions: Increased awareness in schools, through notice boards,
assemblies and school forums;
Increased use of the internet between schools in Europe.

Key issue: For smaller villages, funding continues to be problematic.

Session 2: Commerce and tourism - is there a role for twinning
committees to provide an awareness of local products and
tourism to other twin towns?

Key points: A number of events already established were highlighted;
Wimborne Folk Festival - a focus for local produce;
French Street Markets very popular in Poole, Christchurch,
and Portsmouth. Abbotsbury Gardens new this year
Anglo-Irish Film Festival - Cherbourg annual event;

Suggestions: Potential for more Christmas Markets 
Use of the Tourist Offices to promote Twinnings
Promote discussion between like minded groups e.g. farmers

Key issue: expense of taking ‘home-grown’goods exceeds the profit’ly
( For Poole - formal Twinning agreement between the Poole and 
Cherbourg Tourism Offices at the September Joint meeting ......?? )
Session 3: How can twin towns improve communications and their
image with each other and with their local population?

Key points: Encourage e-mail contact between schools ( class to class,
not 1:1) A Dorset County Council aim to develop 25 links
between Dorset and La Manche Schools

Suggestions: Continue to promote web-sites, in particular the use of the
Dorset twin Town site (  etc )

Key issue: Work placements! This continues to be an ongoing source of
debate, as GB placements are ‘required’ of French students.
- Dorset maintains the finding of such placements is the Fr.
H.E. (higher education establishment ) responsibility ...
- French position is that students capable of degree standard 
are capable of finding their own placements ...
- French delegates insist on the importance of learning 1/2 foreign languages 
Possible solutions: greater use of web-site notice boards;
Directory of French / English firms willing to take students;
Access and use of Bournemouth & Poole College placements
( Futures - training and working for money ) but this will
incur costs for the students and / or their education
establishment. ( Tony Watts to follow up.) 

Comment on Conference: 
* debate was lively and interesting with many shared ideas
* the youth attendees contributed another dimension to this
* important to share thoughts, ideas and opinions
* for older members of twinning associations many of the
problems are recurring
* youth involvement is a matter of continuous education and
dissemination of information for the current members
* already many of our youth members are ‘citizens of Europe’
( Youth Parliament?) and as such will make well informed leaders ....
* Three day summer school - E100 for three days ( 2 nights) ex. ferry fare
for Youth participation, with opportunities for music making.
Dorset County Council contact: David Kenyon 
* Enquire more about a programme to support students ( as told by the
Rumanian delegate )
* Pursue issues about form filling / funding applications etc. at Monday’s
meeting with the MEPs 

Visit to European Parliament 
Monday 15th April

Sarah Kent: Assistant to Graham Watson ( Liberal Democrat MEP )
and Tony Watts main contact!

Jean Phillippe Brossard: Manche County Council European Officer, 
involved in Community funding projects e.g. developing rural areas 

Jake Stafford: European Officer for S.W. England Office - works for a
consortium of authorities in the S.W. including Dorset.
Relays information of legislation to the SW
e.g. informed Torbay Council about
Common Market Fisheries policy 
Lobbies on behalf of SW legislative issues
e.g. foot & mouth recovery programme
Promotion of the SW at E.U. level 

Adeline Jacob: Lower Normandy Regional European Office.
Responsible for a number of projects, including a competition
for Colleges and Lycees - used to explore twinning links

Richard Kitt: Head of Local Government International Bureau (LGIB)
Brussels Office - the Bureau lobbies the EU for increased 
funding ( E5m in 1995 / E12m in 2002 ) for twinning.
Richard’s interest stemmed from a school exchange visit .. 
* Global workforce - skills needed to compete
- dif. businesses / dif. cultures
- not just about dif. languages
* Social & economic differences - inequalities/ expectations
- twinning can help to overcome these
* Exchange participation - helps the school curriculum
- helps self confidence
- including awareness of citizenship and national stereotypes are challenged

Frank Ey : Assistant to Austrian MEP Herbert Bosch

John Lamper informed those present of the Dorset twin Towns web-site
- used to promote school links; also last edition of LGIB newsletter
Sophie Holman further informed the group about the Youth web-site.
David Warhurst asked what ‘key themes’ might open financial doors -
Ans: ‘aiding the awareness of ..... /.... challenging national stereotypes’
Graham Watson: Liberal Democrat MEP (Leader ) 
‘ Twinning at the root of European Union; the philosophy was to
move from the Nationalism of C20 to a Europe of peace and 
harmony in C21, creating a legislative framework for Nations
to exist ....’
D.W. raised question about funding:
Reply: - use MEP to help make decisions more quickly
- key heading is education ( stay within remit )
- the long winded nature of applications is part of the
balance of accessibility v accountability ......
- there are British Local Government restraints on spending
that do not exist in France ... 

Glyn Ford: Labour MEP
2002 budget for twinning €10m; 2003 budget - €12m
- for cultural exchanges
- training seminars for town officers
- simpler procedures for €2,000 or less
new rules to be distributed ( T.W.)

A plea from the small villages ... funding needed ... please err on the side of the small!

Sally Davis: Youth member for Sherborne; requested easier access to
work placements to help language
Reply: European Youth Foundation includes YMCA, Scouts, 
Young Libs, expands links to Chambers of Commerce;
European Youth Forum - EU funded
S.W.Office - young workers, scientists, entrepreneurs
e-mail / web site: town

Giles Chichester: Conservative MEP for Devon
Highlighted the problems of an enlarged EU: 
- countries from further away, have less money, differing cultures 
- twinning is a practical way of improving our understanding of
each other, as well as getting to know Europe
Question: How can twin towns access EU funding?
- criteria for applications are reviewed annually
- some towns are more successful in watching for the changes
- pleased to encourage ‘start-ups’
Emphasised the importance of getting together to ‘have fun’ .... some
felt this trivialised twinning and that approach was ‘in the past’

Official Brussels website


Revised: 19/02/2005