Leipzig opened its new Partnerstadt Quartier (sister city district) on Monday, May 9. Centrally located in Market Square, the Quartier is intended to be another important venue for Leipzig’s growing international community. It will be an open meeting point for the private and public actors who foster national and international city friendships.
Opening speeches were held by representatives of the city of Leipzig, including Mayor Burkhard Jung. Also on the speakers’ list was the head of the Department for International Cooperation, Dr. Gabriele Goldfuß. The Managing Director of the European Foundation of the Rahn Dittrich Group for Education and Culture, Gotthard Dittrich, and the Managing Director of Europahaus e.V., Christian Dietz, likewise addressed the audience. The sister city associations also had the opportunity to introduce themselves. Some of the actors have known each other and worked together for many years. Others who only recently founded associations were able to make new friends. A glass of local Sekt or orange juice certainly helped to ease introductions.
The Department for International Cooperation invited the representatives of Leipzig’s sister city associations to the European Foundation of the Rahn Dittrich Group for Education and Culture. This foundation supports the sister city project by making its own premises available. In so doing, they provide the many non-profit associations and initiatives free use of office and meeting rooms for networking.
Each sister city has the opportunity to showcase its specialties in a dedicated space.
This comprises a shelf that each association can decorate with brochures, objects, and other typical items of interest. The German-French Society Leipzig features a bottle of red wine and cultural offers from the local Institut Francais. The Addis Ababa sister city association showcases handmade scarves received as gifts from friends in the Ethiopian capital. The Kyiv shelf, in turn, features the brochure designed for the 60th anniversary of the sister city agreement in 2021.
The logo of the sister city quarter, which was also presented on May 9, is in Leipzig’s city colors: blue and yellow. Mayor Jung handed over the house plaque with the logo to Renate Voigt, president of the Leipzig Kyiv sister city association, Ukraine-Kontakt e.V.
Markt 10 is already home to international players in the city.
Europahaus e.V., the Polish Institute Leipzig, and the German-Greek Youth Office are already based there. The German-American Institute Saxony (DAIS) is located in the building next door, so the Partnerstadt Quartier fits in perfectly. The inauguration ceremony also included greetings from representatives of Leipzig’s Polish sister city, Krakow. An exhibition on Krakow’s cultural and intellectual treasures was also opened in the new district.
The opening of the new space did not fall on May 9 coincidentally: it is Europe Day. Dedicated to peace and unity, Europe Day dates back to a speech by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950. It is celebrated annually within the European Union. In addition, May 8 commemorates the end of World War II and the victory over the Nazis in 1945. May 09 also marked the beginning of the German Freedom of Expression Week initiated by Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels e.V. (German Publishers and Booksellers Association). In his speech, Mayor Jung emphasized the importance of freedom of expression as well as freedom of the press, which has recently deteriorated in Germany, according to the journalists’ organization Reporters without Borders.
Leipzig currently has 15 sister city partnerships.
The most recent agreement was signed in 2021 with Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, while the oldest was signed with Kyiv back in 1961. The latter is of particular importance now, during the Russian war in Ukraine. In addition to the sister city agreements, the city also has four so-called cooperation partnerships, including with Lviv, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. It also has two district partnerships between Leipzig neighbourhoods, Althen and Liebertwolkwitz, and municipalities in France.
What do all these cooperations and agreements have in common? They ensure a sustainable and solidarity-based connection between people at both the citizen and municipality levels. They help challenge stereotypes and prejudices and sometimes even outlast diplomatic crises between countries.
The sister city agreement between Leipzig and Kyiv is one of many reasons for the high level of solidarity and readiness to help amongst the local population.
President Voigt said in her speech that she and her colleagues are often surprised by the many donations – some from well-established local companies, some from schools. A class of 2nd-graders had recently collected €70 in donations according to Voigt. All schools combined have already collected more than €10.000 for victims of the war. The association will carefully select recipients of the donations. Most of it will go to projects helping to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, like kindergartens and schools.
The new sister city quarter is another essential building block for Leipzig’s presence on the international stage. Nearby, at Matthäikirchhof, further plans for an international house are underway, but implementation is still a ways off.
Are you interested in joining the sister city association? Stadt Leipzig’s website offers contact information and more details. The Partnerstadt Quartier is at Markt 10, entrance via Handwerkerpassage (1st floor).