Successful Turkish-Swedish relations

Mayors and local officials gathered in Izmir on 11–13 October for the final conference of the Turkish-Swedish Municipal Partnership Network (tusenet). The aim was to sum up the lessons from four years of transnational cooperation.

Tusenet has led to “long-lasting friendships” and a “flourishing of democracy” that will improve local services and help Turkey to prepare for EU accession, said Hayrettin Güngör, Secretary General of the Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT). 

Dr. Ruşen Keleş giving the opening speech at the Tusenet final conference.

Capacity-building for municipalities, recognition of UMT’s role in administrative decentralisation, and the transfer of EU know-how – these were some of the key aims of the project, according to Håkan Gustafsson, Managing Director of SKL International, the consulting arm of SALAR charged with managing tusenet. 

Tangible results

Representatives of the six regional partnerships involving 6 Swedish and 23 Turkish municipalities outlined progress made in areas including waste management, renewable energy, local government finance, urban planning and regional tourism. 

Participants also described how horizontal priorities – including sustainable development, gender equality and public participation in local decision-making – had been implemented across the board, in keeping with the overall goals of promoting democracy, human rights and common European values. 

Wider impact

Mr. Urban Andersson, Minister at the Swedish embassy in Turkey and SALAR president Mr. Anders Knape compare impressions from the Tusenet final conference.

Some of the results are less tangible. “Tusenet has helped us to change our way of thinking,” says Fethi Okyar, an engineer from Yeditepe University who works with waste management on the islands of Adalar near Istanbul. The four-year project horizon has enabled a more strategic approach, less prone to the short-termism that has afflicted investment in local services in the past. 

Swedish municipalities have also benefited from their involvement in tusenet. “We have created contacts with one of the most expansive economies in the world, … created a network to enable new projects with Turkey, and strengthened our contacts with other internationally active municipalities in Sweden,” says Jan Martinsson from Kalmar. 

The big question now is how to extend cooperation, both into the future and to new municipalities.