Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Norwich City Council

  You recently wrote to Anne Seex, the Chief Executive, requesting a memorandum on the above subject. Ms Seex has asked me to reply. I also attach a short memorandum from the Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association who play a key role in maintaining the relationship with Novi Sad.

  Norwich City Council has had a long and fruitful relationship with Novi Sad since the late 1950's and signed a formal Declaration of Friendship in 1989. The twinning is exceptionally good in terms of geography, size, function and aspiration of the two cities.

  The relationship has been conducted at civic level and through the development of an active and engaged Norfolk and Norwich Novi Sad Association (see attached statement from the Association).[1]

  The City Council supports the association through modest grants and technical expertise, and provides a mechanism for joint working and co-ordination through the Twinning Committee.

  There is constant contact with Novi Sad through individuals in the Association, and regular Civic visits. The formal twinning agreement always included the intention to promote practical joint working for mutual benefit and technical assistance and professional exchanges have been a regular feature of the relationship. In 1998 there were work experience exchanges and the City Councils Director of Administration held a seminar on democracy in Novi Sad.

  The Associations statement refers to the development of a programme of technical assistance developed between Norwich City Council and Novi Sad City Council. Part Serbia/Montenegro. Other aspects such as technical help with restoration of water supplies, and the development of designs for a new park in Novi Sad have also been pursued. The link has developed mainly through the former City Works department.

  Local firms are also now involved in projects in Novi Sad. Anglia Water is undertaking a contract to rebuild a water pipe across the Danube, and Anglia television has recently provided technical advice and assistance. There is also an on-going relationship between the John Innes Institute and researchers from the Novi Sad agricultural research institute. John Innes have offered DNA machines, which are now surplus to requirements, to the Novi Sad institute.

  In June and July of this year, seven volunteer trainers from the Norwich Rainbow Project for unemployed young people (help for the elderly and infirm) will be going out to Novi Sad.

  There is a high volume of work for the volunteer and unpaid association members who bear the brunt of maintaining day to day relationships with Novi Sad. However, it has been beneficial for the relationship that communication is mainly channelled through one organisation that has built up strong personal relationships and this helps avoid confusion and duplication. These established channels worked even through the most difficult times.

  The FCO/LGIB initiative enabled Novi Sad to take the lead in bringing target opposition cities together to consider new twinning links with the UK. This leadership role and the honest broker role for Novi Sad and Voivodina generally was reinforced at the recent civic day celebration. Representatives from parts of the former Yugoslavia who had not been to the Federal Republic for 10 years attended the celebrations and an economic development seminar organised by the new Mayor.

  The new Mayor of Novi Sad is keen to emphasis the practical joint working aspects of the relationship with Novi Sad's twin cites and plans to hold regular economic development seminars. This provides Norwich City Council with opportunities to develop economic and partnership relationships with not only Novi Sad, but with other cities twinned with Novi Sad.

  Areas of future co-operation with Novi Sad are being considered. One area that the City would like to develop is exchange of experience/mentoring schemes. We are particularly interested in bringing Novi Sad into our EU funded projects as a "shadow" partner, to allow Novi Sad to gain familiarity with EU project procedures and financial and monitoring disciplines, and thereby facilitate early access to, and maximum benefit from, EU programmes in the future.

  Through the Milosevic period, personalities have remained fairly constant in Novi Sad and close personal relationships of trust and mutual respect have been forged. Many of the people in the newly elected city council are different and new relationships will need to be established. However, key personalities in the former administration are now in positions of influence in the provincial and state governments and will be in a position to promote the relationship.

  The City Council values the relationship with Novi Sad very highly. As a mark of the strength of the relationship a new footbridge over the river Wensum in Norwich, which links roads named after two of Norwich's other twin towns Rouen and Koblenz, will be named the Novi Sad Friendship Bridge.

  The relationship is successful because it is mutually beneficial and a relationship between equals. It has fostered a variety of joint working projects between both the City Council and other organisations and companies in Norfolk and Norwich. It has endured through great difficulties through the strength of the Friendship Association and the development of strong personal links, and a determination by the Council to maintain the link. The recent LGIB/FCO scheme has helped provide a new focus and impetus to the City Council to develop the joint working aspects of the relationship.

  The City Council would like to do more to cement our relationships and share technical expertise with Novi Sad as and when additional funding becomes available. A reliable source of funding for this work in the future will greatly increase the level and effectiveness of the future activity and aid the process of future planning.

1   See Appendix 12. Back

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