How it started

The first meeting was held in Granville in 1991 with a carefully constructed programme which gave delegates the opportunity to get to know each other well. This familiarisation was followed by a business meeting at which a number of projects were suggested, but, in truth, not a great deal ensued from this and the two subsequent meetings. The name of the organisation, Douzelage, refers to town twinning, “Jumelage”, and the French word for twelve member states, “Douze”. This name was invented by Karel Majoor and his wife Manna.
Maybe people were a bit overawed by what they had created. Certainly the practicalities of organising twelve towns in a twinning context was more difficult than had been anticipated and needed more structure than had at first been realised. It was following the third meeting, held in Bellagio on Lake Como, that a more positive course of action started to evolve.

Karel Majoor, Mayor of the Dutch town Meerssen, was elected President for three years, proper agendas were drawn up and minutes prepared, and a regular cycle of six-monthly meetings was agreed with every other one including a parallel education meeting for teachers.

Later, a part-time secretary was appointed and an annual subscription required from each town of €300. It was also agreed that the language of the Douzelage should be English, with the addition of French at conferences. Simultaneous translation equipment was purchased which transformed the effectiveness of discussion between the twelve different nationalities.

In 1993, Douzelage received European recognition when it was honored by the European Commission with the “Golden Stars of Twinning”.