A history of Ghent's bilateral partnerships

Through the years, the City of Ghent worked together with cities around the world to achieve objectives of the multi-annual strategy plan.

The City of Ghent can look back on many years of successful exchanges and cooperative projects with its sister and partner cities, with ties of friendship being forged between citizens and associations.

Over the last few decades, the focus in the international cooperation between cities has shifted, and we can see different trends such as the evolution from general to more specific collaboration, from bilateral to multilateral partnerships and from cooperation for an indefinite period to cooperation for a limited period. These trends can also be seen in the partnerships entered into by the City of Ghent.

Between 1958 and 1985: twin cities

Like many other European cities, the City of Ghent joined the twinning movement in the 1950s and established several sister city or 'twinning' relationships with cities in and outside Europe by signing official charters. The trend of twinning began after the Second World War, to strengthen European collaboration, with a focus on reconciliation through cultural exchanges between citizens and associations in the context of the joint commitment to sustainable peace. The emphasis was on conciliation between people by exchanging associations, cultural groupings etc. within the context of the joint pursuit of lasting peace. This network of sister cities has contributed to the current European cooperation. Ghent signed twinning treaties with 7 cities:

  • Saint-Raphaël (France) since 1958
  • Wiesbaden (Germany) since 1969
  • Kanazawa (Japan) since 1971
  • Melle (Germany) since 1977 with the City of Ghent (since 1969 with Sint-Denijs- Westrem)
  • Tallinn (Estonia) since 1982
  • Nottingham (England) since 1985
  • Mohammedia (suburb of Casablanca in Morocco) since 1982

Since 2008: from general to specific

Over the past decades, the focus of international cooperation has shifted and different trends have become noticeable, for instance from 'general to specific', whereby the nature of the cooperation is specific as opposed to a general sister city relationship. Ghent has experienced the same evolution since 2008: cooperation agreements were entered into with the active sister cities and new bilateral partnerships only came about on the basis of cooperation agreements limited in time and for a specific purpose.The City of Ghent has concluded agreements with the following partner cities since 2008:

  • Burgas (Bulgaria) in 2009
  • Gdansk (Poland) in 2009
  • Liège (Belgium) in 2011
  • Weihai (China) in 2013
  • Taizhou (China) in 2018

From bilateral to multilateral partnerships

The most conspicuous trend in international cooperation is the evolution from bilateral to multilateral cooperation: exchanges take place through international networks and projects rather than via bilateral contacts.

In line with this evolution the City of Ghent opts to reorient almost all its existing partnership towards cooperation within the scope of international networks and European subsidy projects.

Only the partnership with the Japanese city of Kanazawa will be maintained in view of the highly active and widely supported cooperation with several partners in Ghent and Kanazawa who strongly contribute to a vibrant dynamic of exchanges and collaborative projects.