Friday, January 12, 2007

A Tale of Two (Sister) Cities

A Tale of Two (Sister) Cities

In a letter dated January 8, 2007, Rochester Hills Mayor – Bryan Barnett – announced its first Sister City Alliance between Rochester Hills, Michigan and Tuz, Montenegro. The Sister City Program, designed to connect the municipalities of Rochester Hills and Tuz in a way that will allow exchanges in administrative, economic, academic, and social programs, was championed by Dr. Prenke Ivezaj, a Rochester Hills resident who himself is an administrative coordinator in the nearby Farmington Hills School District. Mayor Barnett’s letter can be read in its entirety at

To realize the full potential of sister city alliances, it is worthwhile to weigh the significance of this mutual relationship and its desired outcome as Malesia shifts into a new phase of municipal, academic and economic development.

Sister city relationships have evolved over time since their introduction by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, but government-to-government relationships remain very important in many countries. The relationships have traditionally focused on cultural and educational exchange and knowledge sharing. Although many international sister city relationships still maintain this focus, a good many others now see the development of economic benefits as a
key objective.

The role (and subsequent academic and economic pay-offs) of sister city relationships acting as catalysts to developing academic and business linkages is likely to increase over the next decade. Cultural and commercial objectives need not be mutually exclusive – enhancing cultural understanding in the short term can promote commercial exchange in the long run. Let me elaborate on this.

In a world where cultural barriers have been lessened by technological developments such as the internet, and by increasing globalization, it may be that less emphasis is required on the
cultural aspects of these relationships. In addition, reduced barriers to the physical flow of
goods, services, investment and workers have meant that it is imperative for most economies
– and in particular small open economies such as Tuz – to be outwards looking in
their future investment policies. In a similar vein, an exchange of social and academic cultures exposes students to possibilities beyond their realms and open eyes to others on academic barriers that exist around the world.

Benefits from the sister cities programme:

Sister city relationships have delivered economic benefits

International cities that have used sister city relationships in their business plans
indicate that, at the microeconomic (or firm) level, these relationships have delivered
economic benefits. These benefits have had a positive impact upon local economies.

Economic benefits typically cited as arising from, and attributable to sister city relationships

• Establishing business contacts.
• Providing a gateway into new markets and product lines.
• Enhancing the overseas reputation of potential individual firms, and Montenegro as a whole
– giving businesses a competitive edge.
• Reducing transactions and search costs in business negotiations.
• Attracting foreign-fee-paying students.
• Facilitating knowledge and technology sharing and joint research.
• Increasing tourism.

The first three points relate to the creation of potential economic benefits, whereas the last
four points represent realized benefits.

There is substantial potential for extracting further economic benefits from sister city
relationships. Although Rochester Hills and Tuz may have to wait quite some time to see tangible gains from their business dealings via sister city links, they can expect in the near future to see a return on the resources that they have invested into developing networks and building trust overseas. These benefits will continue to increase over time.

If City Councils – Municipalities – and businesses wish to experience greater economic gains from their sister city relationships, they need to better take advantage of the opportunities that such links provide.

Sister city relationships can fit together nicely with other strategic goals. Some of the most
successful relationships focused on identifying and exploiting the region’s competitive
advantages and existing clusters and infrastructure. By targeting key growth industries, sister city relationships can build on both regional and national strategic economic goals, and
maximize the economies of scale of their activities.

Although Tuz lacks in most of the aforementioned targets, the sister city alliance will highlight these shortcomings and hopefully create plans where such targets are not so far-fetched.

Guidelines for Councils (Municipalities)

• Identify your targets – exploit the comparative advantage of your locality.
• Planning is vital – have a strategic plan for each relationship. Build in regular reviews,
and ensure that changing objectives can be accommodated.
• Define the roles – Councils are not always the best agency to conduct business
negotiations, and roles should be delineated accordingly. Internal politics can be offset by
using outside agencies for some activities.
• It’s a two-way thing – include local businesses in trade promotion activities. But by the
same token, know when to back off, and let the business partners negotiate the deal.
• Don’t rush things – sister city relationships thrive on continuity of contact and the
building of trust between local and overseas local bodies. Ensure that continuity of
contact is not over-reliant on individuals.
• Evaluation is essential – evaluating Council activities, and keeping track of business
successes helps demonstrate accountability, and contributes valuable information
regarding best practice.
• Savings are benefits too – information and technology exchange can be a valuable, low
cost source of information.
• Make use of technology – the internet provides an effective, low-cost vehicle for
advertising your region and its comparative advantages.
• Details matter – Councils can help business by providing important cultural and
background information.

Guidelines for business

Sister city relationships represent another tool in a business’s toolbox. While they shouldn’t
be relied upon as the only way for a firm to achieve growth overseas, they can be an
important part of any strategic business plan. In this respect, putting time and resources into sister city relationships should be regarded in the same way as any other investment.
Building successful business relationships with sister city contacts requires up-front
expenditure and effort, and will not generate immediate benefits. It can take time –
sometimes years – for these efforts to bear fruit. Continuity of contact, and time spent
establishing trust and building personal relationships is vital to maximizing the economic benefits from sister city relationships.

• Use the sister city relationship as a springboard – sister city contacts can open the
doors to new markets.
• Planning is vital – sister city links work best as part of a business plan. Details matter,
and market research is essential to getting the details right.
• Treat it like any other investment – don’t expect to reap the rewards straight away.
Take the time to develop personal relationships and establish trust.
• Savings are benefits too – contacts made through sister city relationships and
delegations can reduce transactions and search costs.

Guidelines for academics

Sister city relationships have delivered academic benefits

Sister city alliances welcomes families interested in hosting an exchange student. Children in host families, like those traveling abroad, have the opportunity to experience other cultures firsthand and build lasting friendships with students from our partner cities. Hosting an exchange student is one of the most valuable and meaningful contributions of sister city members and supporters.

This is done by furthering the internationalization of schools and to develop intercultural understanding through involvement in a jointly developed residential programme of academic, socio-cultural, and linguistic study. For example “25 Maji” can send 10 students each year to Avondale High School from Tuz so that they can live and study with their American peers in an integrated academic and residential environment. A large number of Tuz students gain international and intercultural experience and insights by joining with their American counterparts in specially designed integrated courses. Others enjoy more intensive exposure by living in dormitory-style housing.

In sum, the relationship between Rochester Hills and Tuz will bring together a variety of exchanges that will undoubtedly expose both possibilities and shortcomings, along with plans and strategies to bridge social, academic and economic gaps between that two cities. The scope of this relationship can be endless, where outputs can be measured and delivered to communities in an effort to further development and progress – a notion that can have elevated benefits for the people of Malësia.

Viktor N. Ivezaj
West Bloomfield, Michigan


Anonymous said...

Can someone please email me the Albanian version?


Anonymous said...

I heard that the mayor of Tuz Maliq Cunmulaj and his staff have been invited by Rochester Hills to receive extensive training on municpal government practices.

I think its a great idea, something more practical and hands-on.

Kudos to Rochester Hills!!

Anonymous said...

This is great stuff!


I am sure that Rochester's Mayor has no idea of the political problems in Tuz, especially the arrests that were made last Sept., but I am sure he will stay on top of things and eventually have an input in all facets of society there.

I wonder if their website will have a link to Tuz? That would be great too.

God, who would have thought, the little old town of Tuz gets to be a sister city with a contemporary and elite city like Rochester Hills. Now only if Rochester could divide its budget with Tuz we would be sitting pretty.

Anonymous said...

What a pleasant surprise, Viktor is addressing "local" politics instead of "world."

Well I guess to understand the whole one needs to scrutinize its constituent parts.

I smell an essay coming ...

Anonymous said...

Tina Kalaj, the "katunar" association Malesia e Madhe made this possible. What do you have to say about this, don't forget that we're still waiting for your essay that will Save Malesia for the rest of eternity.

Anonymous said...

Alban (Bani?) -- I didn't ask who made this possible, I already knew that information beforehand.

And what I have to say about that is this: Katunars did not take the lead in initiating this wonderful achievemnt, I'm sure it was someone within the group with some real sense in their head. And you know why I think that? Because this person decided to remain anonymous until I read who it was in the article that Viktor wrote. A Katunar would have plastered his/her name in every possible way to make sure everyone knew s/he did it.

An essay that will save Malesia? Oh please ... where is your sense of humor; go back and read my post and realize the sarcasm involved. Don't be so naive.


Conference Organizer said...

We were never forwarded an "Albanian version" as you request.

Anonymous said...

I have a question:

What the hell is the relevance of the date "25 Maji", given that it is the name of the high school in Tuz?

Was that date significant in Albanian history? I am sure Rochester Hill's Mayor will eventually inquire.

Anonymous said...

Reading over this article it comes to mind that this alliance will help elevate the Albanian cause, or should I say their appeal, for a full and independent Tuz municipality.

The fact that Albanians in Tuz and the Diaspora are serious about making this effort work, that is training to be good public servants at the local level, will not only help better serve Tuz but also Montenegro as a whole.

The purpose of interstate alliances of this sort, at least from I got by reading Viktor's piece, is to engage shared knowledge and information in eforts to run a better government. That benefits the entire state.

I live in Rochester Hills and I will say that the City Council, and its excentric Mayor, are among the most highly efficient in the state of Michigan. I usually tune in to the weekly City Council meetings and am pleased to see how objective and proficient the agenda items are processed and applied.

I think if the reps from Tuz really take this opportunity seriously enough, they will leave with a wealth of knowledge and resources that they will not find anywhere else.

The "American model" of good government has been cited since the turn of the 20th Century when Tocqeville wrote about it in "Democracy in America," one of the best books ever written on what constitutes good government -- representative municipalities is one.

In any event, I would encourage the Mayor of Tuz to make this project his number one priority and apply what he and others learn to Tuz, it is an invaluable lesson. This is my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I agree ... somewhat.

I have my reservations, however, given the competing heads in Malesia. The power struggle between Albanian elites seem to take center stage whenever there is a proposal to select or nominate people to represent the region (in this case calling upon a delegation to visit the U.S.).

Although we now have elected officials (e.g., mayor, council members,etc.), that should alleviate this problem, we still have those that want to have a hand in everything, and unless they do, they turn out to be the stringest opposition to any political process.

I agree that this localized project is a springboard to better overall government, as the article eludes, but the benefits are only as good as the political elits are willing to (1) accept, and (2) implement for greater overal ends.

I guess we just have to stay tuned...

Anonymous said...

Back to the Albanian version question. I think it would be a good idea to have the translated version (if there is one) sent over to Malesia webpages and have residents over there read what sister cities are all about. Maybe it will be encouraging to them.

Anonymous said...[1].pdf

albanian version

it's on

Anonymous said...

No no ... I mean the Albanian version of the article V. Ivezaj wrote on this site. It goes in depth re the relevance of sister cities; I think that's important to know, esp. for those that live over there.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard about the "Albanian Film Festival" that is taking place in Ann Arbor at the UM??

I heard that some Alb students there have organized this week-long event to showcase Albanian culture and society during the communist era and how it
(trans)formed the identity and sociology of those living in Albania between 1968-1989.

I'm not sure what the films are but this sounds neat.

Anonymous said...

Email Viktor and ask him if he has the Albanian version. Why do you need it? Can't you read English..haha?

Anonymous said...

What about some one has any suggestions in the financial area?
What should we do or can we do to help Malesia start working and earning some money!
So all those young people do not waste their time in those "Cafes" all day long?
Without work "Malesia" will never survive, no matter how great your ideas are!
Thank you...

Anonymous said...

The Financial & Economic dimension:

True, the job-less rate is staggering in Malesia, and without employment opportunities you will continue to find all those young people sitting around in cafes wasting their lives.

Montenegro has an opportunity to engage its workforce and exploit its many resources, one being food production.

Food production and agriculture play an important role in Montenegro's economy, with the primary sector alone amounting to more than 10% of total GDP. But the problem here is that most of Montenegro's products are more expensive than those in other European countries.

One area where Montenegrins have a distinct advantage is tomato production. The price of Montenegrin tomatoes is low compared to the EU, and even to countries such as Greece, Italy and Portugal, which have relatively favourable conditions. Over the long term, technological advancement, higher production and better organisation will be the keys to remaining competitive.

Also, The cost of lamb production has been dropping lately. Prices are especially low in comparison with Mediterranean countries

(Mishi i qengjit mund të ishte industria më konkurruese në Malin e Zi).

But there are more problems here also: Market infrastructure remains underdeveloped. Production is not well-organised, slaughterhouses do not comply with hygienic standards, and exporters lack sufficient international expertise.

Tobacco is another industry where Montenegro is competitive, and where Albanians have had much to do with.

Prices are lower than in the EU, but the future of the sector is uncertain. Analyses have shown that tobacco production throughout Europe is struggling to compete with other parts of the world.

The problem again and agian is with teh Montenegrin government -- without budgetary support to Montenegrin producers, this sector will have trouble competing with counterparts in Europe.

In general, Montenegro has considerable production potential. Agricultural area in Montenegro covers 38% of the country's total surface area. Agricultural land resources stand at about 0.84 hectares per capita -- one of the highest figures in Europe.

In Malesia, this adds up to potential work and economic growth. But the region is plagued with neglect, where all potential sources of economic development is concentrated in regions outside Tuz.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they (Albanians) just build a produce factory in Malesi?

I am sure they can get investors from America to help chip in; they've already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a banquet facility there -- I think this might be a better venture.

Just think of it - there are so many tomato, peppers, cabbages, etc. that are in prime and fertile locations in Malesia, they would just need a way to process and package the goods for market.

This would also alleviate some of the unemployment issues.

Perhaps dialogue with the sister city might be helpful here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,
Montenegro does not allow unless they are partners with us on it. So who wants to be partners with them?
We want and need to break a way altoghether from them.
You see they have not built nothing in Malesia for the past 35 years..Their plan is to chase us Albanians from there! Get it..

Conference Organizer said...

Anonymous -

Well, this is the problem with privatization, and these are some of the issues that need to be addressed during any discussions with Montenegro re minority rights amendments during its transition period.

I am not aware of the domestic laws re business ownership, but as you mention, it might be that a Montenegrin national requires to be "part owner" of any venture that is created. If this is the case, however, can't Albanian citizens in Montenegro argue that they are nationals/citizens in this respect?

When you say that Montenegro requires to be partners with us, what do you mean? The government? If this is the case then we are being thrown back into the Communist era and state-controlled market enterprises. Do you agree??

And if THIS is the case then the new Europe, ie. EU, needs to be made aware of it as Montengro pushes forward in attaining European memberships. Who is going to do this??

Your assertion that Montenegro is trying to push Albanians out may indeed be justified, but not only with this example to boot. We can stay here and talk about the many tools that are being utilized to make the exodus/assimilation a reality and a dangerous prescedent for future ethnic relations in Montenegro.

We can start by lobbying Vienna to insert privatization modifications into the new Montengrin Constitution, which is currenly being drafted as you and I type.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

The Albanians in Malesia have and WILL be discriminated against in many different aspects. From everyday life, to the political scheme, and even in the workforce, Albanains have and will continue to be discriminated against. Although sometimes not publically Montenegro is using "Jim Crow" laws to prevent Albanians from succeeding.

Now, the question is how can we put an end to this? With the newly formed pro-Albanian coalition and a seat in parliment we're on the right track, but that's still not enough. The next few years will be very important for Malesi, considering Malesia has a new mayor, city council, and representative in parliament, (all of which are supported very highly by the Albanian diaspora) these new elected officials must make a difference not only throughout Malesia, but focus on the center point, TUZ, so when Mayor Barnett comse, he won't see more cafes than museums, parks, schools, libraries, etc.

It seems as if the Albanian diaspora has almost spoiled Malesia, we've put them on the right road, now it's up to them to keep themselves on the right track.

Lastly, we all must realize that the "struggle" for Malesi, is going to be a slow process. Instead of calling for a reunification of ethnic Albania in public, call for proper minority rights. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Shqypnia stretch its borders out to Malesi, but we must take it step by step.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alban,
We need to do the following:
a)All albanians born in Montenegro should get their ID (Leter njoftim apo "Licna Karta" and in the next 3.5 years must go and vote for the albanian parties. This way we will insure the 2 seats in the parialment an perhaps win another delegate?
Once we win again and we invest som money ourselves in Malesia then we can get things going in our favor. Right now Nikolla, Maliqi and Vasel Sinishtaj have no money to achieve anything!
And if you can not get anything done they will not get elected next time around! Since Podgorica is not giving them the funds it should 2.2 million Euros that they are entitled to get, as municipality.
As far as investing with Montengrin government they request to own 51 percent and that makes you a minority owner. You would not want that, would you?
When it comes to the Albanians there Montenegro continues to discriminate and it seems we can do very little about it?
So you see, Montenegro can do this because Albania is too weak to help us. Albania would not even officially protest the arrest of 18 Albanians in Montenegro.You know what Albania said: We do not mix in the internal affairs of another state. So for as long as we are left alone without any help from some one (Albania, Kosova or Daispora) those in Malesia can do very little.
We should go for now and register there, get the ID cards and go vote for the Albanians and then apply outside pressure and we can make a difference.
P.S. I have already got my ID crad and will go vote next time. This how we need to take control of our own destiny.
Be well my friends..

Anonymous said...

Although your suggestions with ID cards/registration is a start, you seem to be deviating from the real problem in Malesia.

There remains a strong majority of Albanians in Malesia that (1) do not vote, (2) vote for the ruling Montenegrin parties, (3) vote along religious lines in favor of Dinosha, which translates into votes for the ruling DPS, and (4) simply do not care about the political process, which leads me to believe that they are "OK" with the political-social conditions that exit today.

Argue with me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

No argument here.

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