Sopot (Poland) and its international cooperation in the Baltic Sea region

Jacek Karnowski,
Mayor of Sopot,

Katarzyna Choczaj,
Marketing and PR Department,
City Hall of Sopot,

Sopot has eight partner cities with whom it works with, based on bilateral agreements. In the Baltic Sea region our most active partnership is with Naestved, Denmark. Sopot and Naestved have been working together closely for many years. Our partnership is focused on cultural issues. Over the years we have had meetings between many cultural institutions, such as libraries, theatres and cultural centres. Within the context of the visits, the guests took part in regular literary and music festivals. Experience and knowledge always pay off. Even if we can’t use every solution, such visits bring tangible ideas and projects that can be carried out.

That said, I would like to mention collaboration between NGOs. I feel that this way of working together is the most effective and brings the best results. The benefits for local communities are the most important element that makes continuing the work of partner cities worthwhile.

One of Sopot’s most dedicated organisations, who work with Naestved, is the On the Path to Expression Association (Stowarzyszenie na Drodze Ekspresji) who deals with the issues of the inclusion of marginalised people, including people with disabilities, into the life of the community. The Association’s members and volunteers have been taking part in the International Handi Art Exhibition of People with Disabilities, which is held by the Danish Næstved Kulturforening association since 2003. The visits are an opportunity to promote the art of people with disabilities and an excellent way to exchange ideas and experience. By taking part in the exhibition, artists with disabilities can showcase their work and provide a personal insight into their everyday lives that cannot always be described in words. Although art is a therapy in itself, the appreciation by others and a unity with them is very valuable to people with disabilities. Every year, the participants from Sopot organise their own side event, for example the “Cucumber Smile” performance, whose aim was to raise awareness of diversity or last year’s discussion on human rights, especially within the context of people with disabilities.

Also worth mentioning is the “Another Country? A New Life? The issue of culturally-sensitive social work in the context of migration” international conference held in Sopot in November 2017. Its main subject were the issues generated by migration within the context of integration with the local communities. The agenda included lectures by researchers from Krakow’s Jagiellonian University and the University of Gdańsk, presentations by representative of the Border Guard, Sopot’s partner cities from Germany and Denmark and NGOs. The conference was aimed chiefly at local government representatives from Pomerania, NGOs, Pomeranian academic circles and people who work with foreigners.

Continuing the subject of migration, in September 2018 Sopot’s representatives participated in an international conference focused on showing best practices and practical solutions for the integration of and support for refugees in Neastved. The organisers presented  a support system for refugees developed as a city service; there were study visits to a Danish language school where the teaching system was presented and the visitors could see how the work with the learners looked like in practice. There were also visits to businesses with a presentation of the principles behind the collaboration between city hall and business towards the professional activation of refugees in an actual working environment. They could also see a temporary home for refugees, where some 80 families lived until they receive their eventual homes.

Our partnership with the Swedish Karlshamn, in turn, has led to a number of meetings between  children from music schools. These projects brought joint concerts by children in both cities that drew a considerable audience. For the kids themselves it was an opportunity to get to know each other and the partner cities.

For several years Sopot has also taken an active part in the MATKA Nordic Travel Fair in Helsinki, the largest such exhibition in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region.

Tourists from Finland and Scandinavia are our most frequent visitors. We owe the growing interest in the Pomeranian region and Sopot to, among other things, the many air links to our area. For this reason we also hold many study tours with bloggers and journalists.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mayor of Naestved and the Mayor of Karlshamn for supporting our partnership. I hope that it will continue to grow and that we will have many challenges and projects ahead of us.


Photo by Szymon Szcześniak

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