There are many twinning organisations, but none like Douzelage.
Most are simple partnerships between two towns or villages. Others combine cities, counties, departments, even regions, and several span different continents. But there is only one “Douzelage”. Only one twinning organisation that specifically sets out to link at grassroots level every member country of the European Union.
Since 1991, delegates from the member towns have been participating in Douzelage meetings. We now have 28 member towns, one from each of the 28 EU countries, and once a year we gather in one of our member towns for a General Meeting. The participants have always been representatives of the local Douzelage committees, town officials, teachers and representatives of local associations, businessmen, journalists, nurses, librarians, magistrates, tourist officers, schoolchildren, musicians and theatre players as well as a lot of ordinary citizens simply curious to see other Douzelage towns.
The French idea,
Douzelage was formed in 1991, the idea of a visionary retired journalist living in Granville in Normandy, Monsieur André Poirier, to enable contact to be established right across the European Economic Community, as it was then, between ordinary folk. It was to build Europe at the grassroots level, to help give people an idea of their European identity in addition to their national identity.
The impossible name.
Douzelage is an odd name – and often very difficult to explain to people in different EU countries. But the member towns have grown fond of the name and would not change it for the world, even though it is now a bit outdated.
The word Douzelage was coined (no-one is quite sure by whom) at the very first meeting in Granville. Douze (twelve) + jumelage (twinning) = douzelage, the twinning of twelve towns. The partnership was formed through the long-established and highly successful twinning association between Granville and Sherborne to which another ten towns were added by Henry Haffray, adjunct to the Mayor of Granville, and Jeremy Barker from Sherborne, the founder of the Granville/Sherborne twinning association. One town was found from each of the member countries of the European Economic Community at the time.
Although there are now 28 member towns, the original name has been retained, partly because it has become well known, partly because it is impractical to keep changing it, much as the EU has itself done with the twelve stars on the EU flag.