Meetings on “Sister City Activities”, organized for Foreign Affairs and Culture and Social Affairs Directors of Turkey Member Municipalities in the aim of opinion exchange on the efficiency and functionality of sister city relations, took place in Istanbul with the participation of 47 municipal representatives from TDBB Turkey member municipalities, on 19 and 25 January 2017.

The meeting was attended by Akhisar Municipality (Manisa), Akyazı Municipality (Sakarya), Bağcılar Municipality (Istanbul), Balıkesir Metropolitan Municipality, Bayrampaşa Municipality (Istanbul), Beylikdüzü Municipality (Istanbul), Beykoz Municipality (Istanbul), Bolu Municipality, Bursa Metropolitan Municipality, Ceyhan Municipality (Adana), Çınarcık Municipality (Yalova), Denizli Metropolitan Municipality, Düzce Municipality, Eyüp Municipality (Istanbul), Esenler Municipality (Istanbul), Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, Gerede Municipality, Göynük Municipality (Bolu), Hacılar Municipality (Kayseri), Havza Municipality (Samsun), Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, İzmit Municipality (Kocaeli), Kartal Municipality (Istanbul), Keçiören Municipality (Ankara), Kilis Municipality, Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality, Küçükçekmece Municipality (Istanbul), Malatya Metropolitan Municipality, Maltepe Municipality (Istanbul), Union of Marmara Municipalities, Ortahisar Municipality (Trabzon), Odunpazarı Municipality (Eskişehir), Pendik Municipality (Istanbul), Rize Municipality, Safranbolu Municipality (Karabük), Sancaktepe Municipality (Istanbul), Sarıyer Municipality (Istanbul), Selçuklu Municipality (Konya), Talas Municipality (Kayseri), Tavşanlı Municipality (Kütahya), Union of Municipalities of Turkey, UCLG-MEWA, Ümraniye Municipality (Istanbul), Üsküdar Municipality (Istanbul), Yozgat Municipality, Yunusemre Municipality (Manisa) and Zeytinburnu Municipality (Istanbul).

On his opening speech, TDBB Secretary General Fahri Solak gave general information on TDBB and informed the audience about the aim of the workshop. Solak said, “We know that one of the areas that both municipalities and the unions work on is sister cities. Within this concept, in this workshop the positive or failing points about sister city relations until this day will be recorded and will be taken into consideration in the proceeding steps. On TDBB Website and social media accounts the news are given in three languages: Turkish, English and Russian. We are conducting a private portal project about sister cities on our website. We will complete the portal by taking the results of these two workshops into consideration and the portal will be made available for our members. I think that these meetings will be beneficial in the sense of portal’s efficiency. I thank you for your participation and interest.”

Later on, the presentations were made: Presentation on TDBB Activities and TDBB Sister Cities was made by Foreign Affairs Expert S.Tuğba Ekşi. On the first part of the two-part meetings the activities that have been made by the municipalities about sister cities were presented; on the second part of the meeting which was made in the afternoon as a workshop two questions, “What are your suggestions for working more efficient and productive with TDBB?” and “What are the problems and expectations of your municipality concerning foreign affairs in general and sister city activities in private?”, were asked.

On the first meeting which was made on 19 January 2017, Thursday, Bağcılar Municipality, Kartal Municipality, Pendik Municipality and United Cities and Local Governments Middle East and West Asia Section (UCLG MEWA); on the other hand, on the second meeting on 25 January 2017 Akhisar Municipality (Manisa), Bolu Municipality, Denizli Metropolitan Municipality, Gerede Municipality (Bolu), Keçiören Municipality (Ankara), Kilis Municipality, Ortahisar Municipality (Trabzon), Safranbolu Municipality (Karabük), Selçuklu Municipality (Konya), Tavşanlı Municipality (Kütahya) and Yunusemre Municipality (Manisa) made presentations on sister city relations.

On both meetings, the problems about the area were discussed in “Sister City Workshops” which were designed as roundtable discussions. Within this framework, problems like lack of information on Sister cities, lack of information about the future sister city and in this way underdevelopment of the project, lack of efficient staff in the municipalities, one-way relations, the problem of aid-based relations, sister city relations between dissimilar cities and in this way the problem of sustainability, the differences of local government systems between the countries and problems arising from these differences, changing authorities in both sides and interruption of relations as a result of elections, problems about legislation, financial problems, problems about deciding the related and responsible department and visa problem for international travel were discussed.

In the discussion of expectations and suggestions, headlines like creation of a periodically updated, informative and directive platform inclusive of all municipalities and related institutions, selection of the responsible staff related with the area, creation of effective webs and organization of encouraging activities by coordinative institutions, organization of similar meetings more often, gathering of municipal authorities in certain time periods and exchanging their opinions, organization of meetings by related public institutions (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, TIKA, YTB, Municipalities, Unions etc.) once a year in the aim of deciding strategies, municipal unions’ taking more initiatives and informing the members for the priorities came to the forefront.