MMU Continues to Support Sister Cities’ Relations During Corona Days

Closed borders, parked transport vehicles, and isolated people…These three phenomena which characterize our “new normal” days emerged with the Covid-19 pandemic have been testing our relations with others and loosening our ties. The situation is even more valid as far as the relationship between two sister cities is concerned. Having been on the frontline in the struggle against pandemic, local governments have focused all their attention on mitigating the negative impacts of Covid-19 process. In this environment, it is important to take an action with the available resources in order to sustain sister city relations. Marmara Municipalities Union (MMU) and the Center for the Development of Relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIGMEV) are organizing online “Turkey - Bosnia and Herzegovina Sister City Meetings” in order to support cities from Turkey to foster their relations with their sister cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Mayors of sister cities between Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely the Mayors of Bursa Metropolitan - Sarajevo Municipality, Lapseki - Jablanica Municipalities, Zeytinburnu - Ilidza Municipalities, Ümraniye - Jojnica Municipalities, Sultanbeyli - Jajce Municipalities, Pendik - Travnik Municipalities, Bahçelievler - Hadzici Municipalities, Bağcılar - Celic Municipalities, Altınova - Buzim Municipalities, and Gebze - Kakanj Municipalities, Bayrampaşa - Ilidza Municipalities, Altıeylül - Maglaj Municipalities, Edremit - Srebrenik Municipalities, Gömeç - Donji Vakuf Municipalities, Kandıra - Pale Praca Municipalities, Beyoğlu - Novi Grad Municipalities, Çekmeköy - Vogosca Municipalities, İzmit - Travnik Municipalities, Nilüfer - Zavidovici Municipalities, Derince - Novi Grad Municipalities, Fatih - Stari Grad Municipalities and Sancaktepe - Gornji Vakuf Municipalities came together at online meetings between 16 April and 8 September 2020. During the meetings, sister cities informed their counterparts regarding the recent situation in their country in general and in their municipalities in particular emerged with Covid-19. They shared information and experiences on how to tackle the challenges caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Besides, the potential collaboration areas and projects were addressed in the meetings.

Laspeki - Jablanica Meeting
In the meeting between Lapseki and Jablanica, Eyüp Yılmaz, the Mayor of Lapseki Municipality, and Salem Dedic, the Mayor of Jablanica Municipality, came together at the online platform. In their conversation, Dedic stressed that collaboration between two cities would be an effective tool to overcome the problems caused by the pandemic. Yılmaz, on the other hand, underlined the importance of two cities’ support for one another in these challenging times and stated that Lapseki Municipality will do their best to support Jablanica Municipality after Covid-19.

Zeytinburnu - Ilidza Meeting
The second meeting took place between Ömer Arısoy, the Mayor of Zeytinburnu Municipality, and Senaid Memic, the Mayor of Ilidza Municipality. In the meeting, Memic gave information on Ilizda’s social assistance activities targeting people in need, and said “What is important here is that we should provide all people seeking help from us with social assistance, regardless of the amount of aid.” Supporting the statement of Memic, Arısoy emphasized that Zeytinburnu Municipality adopts the same approach and strives to touch on the lives of people in need.

Ümraniye – Fojnica Meeting
As part of the online sister city meetings, İsmet Yıldırım, the Mayor of Ümraniye Municipality, met with Sabahudin Klisura, the Mayor of Fojnica Municipality. Yıldırım stated that Ümraniye Municipality is ready to give its support to Fojnica Municipality whenever needed. As a response to Yıldırım’s statement of solidarity, “What you have said is very meaningful, and we know that we have a sister in Ümraniye, which makes us feel safe.” said Klisura.

Sultanbeyli - Jajce Meeting
On 7 May 2020, Hüseyin Keskin, the Mayor of Sultanbeyli, and Edin Hozan, the Mayor of Jajce came together. In the meeting, Hozan underlined the importance of being in solidarity with Sultanbeyli Municipality and expressed his hope to sustain this sister city relationship. Keskin, on the other hand, stated that they hoped to collaborate with Jajce Municipality on concrete projects after Covid-19 in order to strengthen the ties between two municipalities. The mayors assigned their teams the task to work on potential collaboration areas.  

Pendik – Travnik Meeting
At the online meeting which gathered Ahmet Cin, the Mayor of Pendik Municipality and Admir Hadziemric, the Mayor of Travnik Municipality, Cin informed his counterpart on the current situation in Pendik and his experiences on the Covid-19 process, and stated “We see Travnik as our homeland.” Emphasizing that Travnik was once an Ottoman city, Hadziemric said that “What is important here is that our relationship does not only rely on material things. Our cooperation is essentially based on sentimental values. We would like to host you here in Travnik as soon as these difficult days pass.”

Bahçelievler – Hadzici Meeting
Hakan Bahadır, the Mayor Bahçelievler Municipality, and Hamdo Ejubovic, the Mayor of Hadzici Municipality met on 14 May 2020. After sharing their experience and knowledge on the Covid-19, Bahadır said that “Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina have always been in cooperation with one another due to their shared past. As Bahçelievler Municipality, we are very pleased to the collaborate with Hadzici Municipality within the boundaries of our legal authority.” Ejubovic thanked Bahadır for their collaboration, and stated that “We will become stronger if we continue our mutual collaboration after the pandemic.”

Bağcılar – Celic Meeting
On 20 May 2020, an online meeting was held between Lokman Çağırıcı, the Mayor of Bağcılar Municipality, and Sead Muminovic, the Mayor of Celic Municipality. At the meeting, Muminovic said “Relations which develop at the local level create more powerful ties. As sister cities, we have a duty to contribute not only to the relations between two municipalities, but also to the relations of two countries.” Upon the statement of Muminovic saying that he has been the mayor of Celic for 21 years, Çağırıcı said “I have also completed 21 years at Bağcılar Municipality. Continuing working together, we can celebrate our 25th anniversary together.” Both mayors agreed on making preparations for the potential cooperation areas, and on meeting again after the pandemic.

Altınova – Buzim Meeting
Metin Oral, the Mayor of Altınova Municipality, and Mersudin Nanic, the Mayor of Buzim Municipality, came together on 28 May 2020. At the meeting, mayors informed each other on the current situation in their regions with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic and discussed potential cooperation areas. Nanic relayed information to his counterpart on the project to build Aliya İzzetbegoviç square in Buzim and the municipality’s plant growing works. Oral emphasized that Altınova Municipality is open to collaborate with Buzim Municipality and that they will contact Buzim Municipality again after making preparations on the mentioned collaboration areas.

Gebze – Kakanj Meeting
The online meeting between Zinnur Büyükgöz, the Mayor of Gebze Municipality, and Aldin Sljivo, the Mayor of Kakanj Municipality was, at the same time, the first meeting between the mayors of the two sister cities. Sljivo expressed his appreciation by saying that “We didn’t have a chance to meet before. It is a pleasure for me to meet our sister city’s mayor amid the pandemic.” Büyükgöz responded “We will start to work on developing our social and cultural ties first and later on, setting our roadmap. I would like to thank the mayor for his kind kick-off.”. Two mayors agreed to visit each other in person after the pandemic and work on potential collaboration areas.

Bayrampaşa – Ilidza MeetingThe Mayor of Bayrampaşa Municipality Atila Aydıner met Senaid Memic, the mayor of Ilidza Municipality as part of online “Turkey - Bosnia and Herzegovina Sister City Meetings”. The mayors shared their best practices and measures in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Aydıner gave information to his counterpart on Bayrampaşa Municipality’s practices specially on disinfection activities, information work for citizens and book post to kids and added “Bosnia and Herzegovina is entrusted to us by Aliya İzzetbegovic. Hence the Mayor is also entrusted to us.”

Altıeylül – Maglaj Meeting
The Mayor of Altıeylül, Hasan Avcı and the Mayor of of Maglaj, Mehmet Mustabasic met for the first time during Turkey - Bosnia and Herzegovina Sister City Meetings and exchanged information on their challenges and services during the Covid-19 outbreak. Avcı said that the Mayor of Maglaj has never left them alone, and added “We’ll always be there for the Mayor and his team.” Mustabasic reflected his gratitude to meet Avcı and said “We wish to develop our cooperation along with our fellowship.” The two mayors agreed to have a second meeting with their teams in order to discuss potential collaboration areas.

Edremit – Srebrenik Meeting
In his sister city meeting with Nihad Omerovic, the Mayor of Srebrenik, the Mayor of Edremit Selman Hasan Arslan touched upon the important roles of municipalities during Covid-19 process by saying “Municipalities are at the forefront in combat against Covid-19 all around the world. They worked in the field on health, lockdown, measures and so on. It has been a challenging time but fortunately we have municipalities.” Arslan and Omerovic agreed on working economic, cultural and educational cooperation opportunities and assigned their teams during the meetings. Arslan emphasized the importance of mutual collaboration between sister cities and intimacy between their citizens. Omerovic shared Arslan’s approach and expressed the significance of establishing a system which does not depend on the mayors and paves the way for collaboration.  
Gömeç – Donji Vakuf Meeting
The Mayor of Gömeç, Mehmet İrem Himam and the Mayor of Donji Vakuf, Huso Susic came together on 12 June 2020. Susic invited Himam to the Days of Ajvatovica (Grandfather Ajvaz) which is a large tourist and religious attraction organized in Bosnia and Herzegovina every summer. Himam put forward olive cultivation and tourism as potential collaboration areas for Gömeç and said “Sister city relationship between the two towns is very important. There are many Bosnian people living in Gömeç. As the mayors, it is our duty to collaborate with each other.” The mayors expressed their gratitude for meeting online and added that they will visit each other in person as soon as possible.  

Kandıra – Pale Praca Meeting
The Mayor of Kandıra, Andan Turan met the President of Pale Praca Municipal Council, Almir Cutuk, and Deputy Mayors Hamdo Selimbegovic and Munir Radocan on 18 June 2020. At the meeting, Turan and Cutuk informed each other on the current situation in their regions with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic and discussed potential cooperation areas. Turan stated that “cooperating in ecotourism, agriculture livestock would be beneficial for both municipalities.” The preservation of historical monuments was also mentioned by Cutuk as a secondary area of cooperation. Both sides agreed to work on these areas and meet one more time to move on with more concrete steps.
Beyoğlu – Novi Grad Meeting
The Mayor of Beyoğlu, Haydar Ali Yıldız met Semir Efendic, the Mayor of Novi Grad, Beyoğlu’s sister city in Bosnia Herzegovina, on 1 July 2020. Efendic stated that having been at the center of Sarajevo and Bosnia Herzegovina, Novi Grad, just like Beyoğlu, is exposed to the challenges during the Covid-19 outbreak. In the meeting, where Yıldız and Efendic met for the first time, Yıldız invited the Mayor of Novi Grad to the upcoming programs in Beyoğlu. Efendic welcomed the invitation by indicating the importance of meeting face to face in order to discuss concrete cooperation opportunities especially on education, culture, industry and tourism.

Çekmeköy – Vogosca MeetingThe Mayor of Çekmeköy, Ahmet Poyraz, Deputy Mayor of Çekmeköy, Latif Coşar and the Mayor of Vogosca, Edin Smajic came together for the online meeting to share their practices and current situation on combat against Covid-19. They discussed both short term collaboration areas for Covid-19 process and long term cooperation opportunities on areas such as sports, culture and art. Efendic said “We are sister cities but you are the elder one. We are open to any kind of cooperation with you.” Coşar welcomed Efendic’s kind statement and emphasized that they always stand by their sister cities.  

Izmit – Travnik Meeting
The Mayor of Izmit, Fatma Kaplan Hürriyet and the Mayor of Travnik, Admir Hadziemric came together for the first time as part of Turkey - Bosnia and Herzegovina Sister City Meetings. They evaluated common areas for the exchange of experience and good practices. Hadziemric stated that he has been inspired by the playgrounds, social activity areas, sport centers and bicycle trails of Izmit and invited Kaplan to Travnik. Kaplan welcomed the invitiation and added “It is very important to have several characteristics in common between two cities. This would reinforce our relation and approach our municipal work. The two municipalities can work together more efficiently on common areas.” Hadziemric and Kaplan authorized their teams to work on good practice and experience sharing between Izmit and Travnik. 

Nilüfer – Zavidovici Meeting
The Mayor of Nilüfer, Turgay Erdem had a meeting with the Mayor of Zavidovici, Hasim Mujanovic on 13 August 2020. Erdem informed his counterpart regarding the practices of Nilüfer Municipality on public health such as mask production and measures on social distancing. He added “We are ready to do our best for improving our brotherhood on social, cultural and sports aspects. Even if we are physically distant from each other, we always stand by Zavidovici.” Mujanovic said they have been following Nilüfer Municipality’s succesful practices on Covid-19 management with pleasure and invited Erdem to Zavidovici.

Derince – Novi Grad Meeting The Mayor of Derince, Zeki Aygün and the Mayor of Novi Grad, Semir Efendic met to discuss local initiatives during Covid-19 and potential collaboration areas in the future. Aygün stated that Derince Municipality has taken necessary measures of hygiene, masks and distance to combat against Covid-19. Efendic addressed the economic impacts of the pandemic along with the sanitary aspects, and emphasized the importance of economic cooperation between the two cities. Aygün and Efendic agreed to maintain bilateral meetings on sectoral needs and opportunities between municipalities in order to boost commerce.

Fatih – Stari Grad Meeting
The Mayor of Fatih, M. Ergün Turan met the Mayor of sister city Stari Grad, Ibrahim Hadzibajric at an online meeting. Hadzibajric touched upon the long history of Stari Grad and Fatih, which are the center municipalities of Sarajevo and Istanbul. He reminded that the first sister city of Stari Grad is Fatih Municipality since 1990. Turan invited Hadzibajric to Turkey and said “We would be glad to host you and your delegation here to reinforce our friendship as well as experience and knowledge sharing.” The mayors expressed their appreciation to meet online during this Covid-19 period which affects substantially municipalities.
Sancaktepe – Gornji Vakuf Meeting
The Mayor of Sancaktepe, Şeyma Döğücü and the Mayor of Gornji Vakuf, Sead Cauesevic came together for the first time on 9 September 2020 as part of Turkey - Bosnia and Herzegovina Sister City Meetings. Cauesevic emphasized the long-lasting relationship between Sancaktepe and Gornji Vakuf, and congratulated Döğücü on her new position as the only woman mayor of Istanbul. Döğücü mentioned the Covid-19 experiences and new projects of the municipality in the next term. She said “You are a mayor with 12 years of experience. One of the most important elements of our work is to bring the service to our citizens’ doorstep. We continue to work with our slogan “Life is Worth Living”.   

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