EU and International relations
We’re committed to building international relationships in order to promote Belfast in targeted geographic areas. Our focus is on attracting investment, encouraging trade and developing our international tourism, cultural and educational links.
Our key geographical focus is on Europe, USA and China.
Belfast has strong links with the European Union (EU). This has helped us to secure funding and build close relationships with other European cities and regions. As well as promoting Belfast across Europe, we’ve influenced EU policy development and promoted EU affairs locally and in the wider region.
Two examples of initiatives within the EU that we are involved in are:
- Eurocities – we’re a member of the Eurocities network which allows us to influence and develop EU policy and legislation that will directly impact Belfast. Membership also enables us to develop partnerships and secure EU funding.
- Belfast Dublin economic corridor - in 2014 we signed an agreement with Dublin City Council to explore the economic potential of the 100 mile corridor. This has led to both cities working more closely to improve transport connections and boost trade.
Belfast has developed a number of economic and cultural links across the United States, and is a Sister City of both Boston and Nashville.
A Sister Cities Agreement seeks to strengthen ties through economic development, trade and investment, tourism, and cultural and educational exchanges. For more information, visit Sister Cities International.
As a result of our Sister Cities partnerships, we’ve developed a range of mutually beneficial initiatives, including:
- Friendship Four ice hockey tournament - launched in Belfast in 2015, Friendship Four was the first ever college ice hockey tournament played outside USA. 600 Bostonians and thousands of local spectators enjoyed the tournament at the SSE Arena (opens in a new window), which was also broadcast live in America and Canada to over four million homes. Friendship Four has since expanded to include a women’s competition, a youth exchange, a business, education and food showcase and in 2019 will incorporate a transatlantic hackathon bringing together the brightest young Belfast and Bostonian tech talent.
- The Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic - launched in 2017 at the SSE Arena, the Belfast Classic, became the first ever NCAA college basketball tournament played outside the USA. The inaugural year attracted four colleges and in 2018, those teams doubled in size. The tournament attracts thousands of spectators from Belfast and tourists from the UK, Ireland and beyond.
- Nashville in Belfast - launched in 2018, Nashville in Belfast sees a programme of events taking place across the city. Belfast has been a Sister City of Nashville for over 20 years and the Belfast-Nashville relationship has grown to embrace music, cultural exchanges and business opportunities. The Nashville in Belfast 2019 programme took place from 12-16 June.
We’re also currently exploring opportunities to jointly market Belfast and Nashville as leisure and business tourism destinations through our visitor and convention bureaus and staff exchanges.
In addition to our Sister Cities activity, our connection with North America has supported the development of a range of academic partnerships. Queen’s University Belfast collaborates with both Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities in Nashville, whilst Ulster University is exploring opportunities with UMass. In 2019 Belfast Met is set to host a delegation from the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Our relationship with China dates back to the signing of a Sister City agreement with the city of Hefei in the 1990s. Since then we have hosted a number of inward delegations and maintained close relations.
We also signed Sister City agreement with the city of Shenyang in 2016, following an earlier "Friendly Cooperation" agreement between our two cities in 2014. Both agreements formally recognise our growing relations. For example, our biggest manufacturer, Bombardier, has a successful strategic partnership with the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation while QUB recently opened the Queen’s China College medical campus.
In the wider context there is already a wealth of academic connections between Belfast and China, including:
- The Confucius Institute, a partnership between Ulster University with Zhejiang University of Media and Communications.
- Partnership agreements between QUB with universities in Peking, Shanghai, Minzu, Jilin, Harbin and Shenyang.
- Links between Belfast Metropolitan College and Beijing Polytechnic.