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The Hanseatic League

The Hanseatic League

The Hanseatic League was an association of merchants and cities from the 13th to 17th century. For more than 400 years, it influenced the economy, trading and politics of Northern Europe. The Hanseatic League is often called the predecessor of the European Union. In 1980, the Hanseatic League (DIE HANSE) was revived in Zwolle, the Netherlands. It is the largest voluntary association of cities in the world. The members of the Hanseatic League are composed of the cities, kontors (Hanseatic trading posts) and trading posts that historically belonged the Hanseatic League or were documented to be associated with it. There are currently 195 member cities from 16 countries. Every year a different Hanseatic city hosts the Hanseatic Days of New Time, where other Hanseatic cities also participate.
The Estonian Hanseatic cities are Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Viljandi and the kontor Narva.

DIE HANSE aims to promote cooperation between the Hanseatic cities based on the cross-border Hanseatic identity and cultural heritage.

The union of cities DIE HANSE aims to contribute to the economic, cultural, social and national development of Europe. It strengthens the self-awareness of the cities so that they can fulfil their obligations as locations that practice direct democracy.

To reach this goal, DIE HANSE adopted a statute in 2000 for the first time in history.

In 1998, to ensure the sustainability of the Hanseatic identity, the Hanseatic youth organisation Youth Hansa was founded in Visby (Sweden) during the 18th Hanseatic Days of New Time. Its members are young people between the ages of 16-25.

The association HanseVerein e.V was founded in 2012 as a legal entity in order to support the implementation of projects and applications for funding from the EU.

There is no membership fee. Each city covers its own expenses to participate in the Hanseatic Days.

In 2018, the Lübeck City Government created the Hansa CEO position at the Hanseatic Office in Lübeck for better representation of the Hanseatic League and the interests of the Hanseatic cities. The Hanseatic cities will cover the expenses of this position voluntarily and in solidarity. Lübeck has calculated how much each city should pay based on their populations. 

 The Hanseatic League Organisation:

  • Between 1356 and 1699, 67 Hanseatic days (Tagfahrt) were organised, which were the highest decision-making authorities of the Hanseatic League. Today, the Hanseatic Days are the major event. They connect both the decision-making at the meeting of Assembly of Delegates and the introduction and representation of the cities at their kiosks at the Hansa Markets. In addition, there are cultural performances and other events for people to take part in. Applications to organise Hanseatic Days have been submitted up to 2039 and confirmed up to 2030.
  • The highest body of the Hanseatic League is the Assembly of Delegates, which is made up of delegates of member cities (the Mayor or Council Chairman). The Assembly of Delegates meets on the Hanseatic Days. It discusses and decides all issues pertaining the Hanseatic League, such as admission or exclusion of members, changes to the statute, Board elections, the approval of applications to organise Hanseatic Days, initiation of projects, Youth Hansa issues, etc. Each city has one vote. Decision-making is based on majority voting. The Board organises the meetings.
  • The Board is the governing body of the Hanseatic League. It consists of the President (Vormann), who is traditionally the Mayor of Lübeck, and four members from at least three different countries, of which two are appointed Vice-Presidents. The members of the Board are elected for three years. The Board meets at least twice a year; more, if necessary.
  • The Commission is the working body of the Hanseatic League. In each country, the Hanseatic cities elect one city to represent them on the Commission. Germany elects five cities. The Commission is elected for three years. Estonian Hanseatic Cities are currently represented by Tallinn.
  • Youth Hansa is the youth organisation under the authority of the Hanseatic League governed by two to three elected youths. The Hanseatic Cities can send their young people who are interested in the Hanseatic League to participate in the Youth Hansa programme at the Hanseatic Days and/or other events, covering their expenses.
  • The Hanseatic Guild consists of representatives of the Hanseatic cities who have been committed to the Hanseatic League for a long time. Their city has submitted an application for their membership to the Board and the Assembly of Delegates has approved it. The Hanseatic Guild was founded in 2003 at the Hanseatic Days of Turku.
  • Several Estonian Hanseatic cities call their summer festivities (local) Hanseatic Days.
  • The Hanseatic Office is located in the Town Hall of Lübeck and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Hanseatic League. It prepares the minutes of meetings, manages the documentation of the Hanseatic League and maintains the archive. In the time between the Hanseatic Days, it acts as a contact point and communicates with press and EU institutions.
  • The Hanseatic Day is an event founded in 2003 in Lübeck. It promotes the activities of the league in Hanseatic cities on one day of May every year. The organisers arrange thematic exhibitions, excursions, conferences, presentations, handicraft fairs, sports events, dinners, etc. The aim is to revive the spirit of the Hanseatic League and allow the residents of Hanseatic cities to feel a sense of community.

Importance to Tallinn:
  • Tallinn has been a member of the Hanseatic League since around 1285.
  • Tallinn organised the Hanseatic Days of New Time in 1992 with the motto ‘The Renaissance of Hanseatic Trading’.
  • The Hanseatic Days are an opportunity for the Hanseatic City to introduce its traditions and history, economy and culture and to exchange information on various aspects of city life.
  • The Hanseatic League helps to keep the so-called ‘hansa spirit’ alive as a common living and cultural environment that strengthens the sense of community among the Hanseatic Cities, the identities of the cities themselves and the identities of residents as residents of their city.
  • It strengthens the idea of the European city based on the cross-border idea of Hansa and historical experience. It promotes the self-awareness and the cooperation of Hanseatic Cities.

Contacts in Lübeck
Hanseatic Office                  
Ms Stefanie Bischof.                      
Town Hall                                
23552 Lübeck                                                                                                                 

Phone: +49 (0) 451 122 - 10 28
E-mail: [email protected]

Contact in Tallinn:
Kersti Kont                                                   
Chief Specialist                                                                                                           
Bureau of International Cooperation

Telephone: +372 640 4518
E-mail: [email protected] 

Hanseatic League website:

The Hanseatic Days of 2022 took place in Neuss, Germany. Estonia did not participate.

Last modified 21.02.2024