France/How this Vienne town came to be twinned with 27 European communes

Published on 15/04/2024 | La rédaction


With 27 foreign twinned towns, Cissé, in the Vienne department, holds the French record for the town with the most twinnings. Mayor Annette Savin explains the origins and advantages of this unusual feature.

In Cissé, Vienne, twinning is no joke. This commune of just under 3,000 inhabitants holds the French record for the number of foreign towns twinned.

It's a rare distinction that stems from a strong sense of belonging to the European Union. " It was Michel Bouchet, the previous mayor, who had the idea of following the progress of the European Economic Community (EEC) by twinning a town in each member country," begins Annette Savin, the current mayor. "I was a deputy at the time, and I have to say that at first we weren't too keen, but as we got into the swing of things, we soon got the hang of it and got on with the project."

From 12 to 27 twinned towns

From 12 members at the start of the project in 1989, the foreign towns have only grown in number. "At the time, each of the deputy mayors was responsible for one of the twelve countries," recalls the mayor. "It wasn't easy at all. I called a lot of towns in a row, phoning all day long. It felt like cold-calling."

Once I'd managed to find the first few, things got easier. " The Dutch knew the Danes, the Germans and Austrians had contacts in the East, and the Italians in the Mediterranean." But some countries could pose a problem, as in the case of Spain. Whether because the two communes were too different or because of changes in the municipal team, it took four attempts and four different localities to reach an agreement.

The last commune to join the twinning community was the Croatian commune of Tisno in 2013. Although England has been out of the picture since January 31, 2020, "we're still twinned with them, because we're too attached to our English friends", smiles Annette Savin.

What's the point of being twinned with so many communes?

As well as keeping an eye on Europe, this twinning project fulfils a deeper role for the commune. Annette Savin explains another reason: "We're really isolated here, far from everything. We don't have a close border. We wanted the local people to feel part of something bigger, to feel what it's like to be part of Europe alongside 26 other countries. With all these contacts across borders, it's as if we're no longer alone in our Poitou."

Of course, this desire to open up to the rest of Europe would not be complete without regular events. From April 25 to 28, for example, the town of Poitou will welcome 44 foreigners aged between 18 and 30, from 20 different countries. The program includes games, quizzes and visits to the Neuville oil mill and Poitiers. On Friday 26, the various guests will each cook a specialty from their homeland. All that remains is to find families to host them.

"Together, we work on themes such as ecology, support for children, senior citizens... It's very enriching and you feel part of something."

Annette Savin

mayor of Cissé (Vienne)

"It's a great way of forging strong ties," says Annette Savin. "Personally, I'm even regularly invited to weddings in Luxembourg. "Teams from the Cissé municipality were even invited to the stars of twinning in 1997 in Strasbourg and in 1997 in Ferrara, Italy. This prize is awarded to municipalities that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to European integration and to bringing citizens closer together. "We were a small town next to giants like Liverpool and Glasgow. We felt out of place, but we proved that we could be just as effective as a big city!"

The town councillor says she's ready to make new twinnings if other countries join the European Union in the future.


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