Councillor David Renard, the Leader of the Council, is in Saltzgitter at the moment as part of the Council’s delegation to mark the fortieth anniversary of our twinning arrangement with the German town.
Since we are also barely a week away from the annual Remembrance Day commemorations it is a good time to reflect on how our relationship with Germany has changed over the past seventy years and why town twinning is still of importance to residents.
We must remember the key anniversaries that we are marking this year. One hundred years ago, the First World War was in full flow, with nations across the globe sending men to fight and die in horrendous battles. No-one at the time would have known how many more years of conflict would still follow.
Seventy years ago, the Second World War ended, although that conclusion did follow the first and only combat use of nuclear weapons. The war also revealed new depths of human cruelty. There were massacres of prisoners of war such as the murder of Polish Officers by the Soviets at Katyn, the brutal treatment of Allied prisoners of war in the Far East, and the attempt to wipe out entire Jewish population through the concentration camps by the Nazis and their sympathisers.
Sadly, across the world today we still see examples of horrors that we might have hoped had been to consigned to the history books.
However, the key message I take from all this is that your opponent is not always your enemy. It is possible to move on and build new relationships after any war.
That is why twinning arrangements such as the one we enjoy with Saltzgitter are so important. They break down abstract ideas about international relations and make them real and personal. Activities where we have closer links across the community provide the social understanding that helps us realise what we have in common rather than those things that keep us apart.
Over time, it will become appropriate for the Council to extend its twinning and partnership arrangements. Perhaps we will consider building additional connections with similar towns in emerging economies, whether these are in Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey, or China. These are serious conversations that I am sure Councillors and other interested groups and individuals will address.