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ISSUE PAPERS

Solidarity in the EU: More hype than substance?






Solidarity / ISSUE PAPERS
Sophie Pornschlegel

Date: 28/07/2021
The concept of 'EU solidarity' is often used by European leaders in times of crisis to shore up calls for cooperation between EU member states and justify joint decision-making. But while interstate solidarity between EU countries based on reciprocity and enlightened self-interest is relatively well-developed, there is little to no interpersonal solidarity between European citizens on the one hand and between EU institutions and citizens on the other. This lack of transnational solidarity could threaten Europe's social cohesion and, thus, European integration in the long run. 

If EU solidarity is to be more than a buzzword, European leaders must prioritise solidarity in their political agenda and give the concept more substance. Sophie Pornschlegel puts forward four recommendations on how to go about it:

  1. The EU should rethink its concept of solidarity: move away from a purely transactional understanding and shift towards a definition that allows for the emergence of solidarity between European citizens.
  2. The EU's cohesion agenda should be consolidated and widened to include interstate and interpersonal solidarity mechanisms rather than only interterritorial ones.
  3. The EU should better support national solidarity mechanisms, as they are the basis for social cohesion in the EU27.
  4. The EU should establish the conditions necessary for interpersonal solidarity to emerge in Europe.

These recommendations are based on an analysis of the origins, forms and dimensions of solidarity at the EU level. The Issue Paper also explores how EU solidarity has evolved through multiple crises in the past few decades before looking specifically at the solidarity mechanisms - and their limitations - set up during the COVID-19 crisis. 

This Issue Paper has been written in the framework of the Charlemagne Prize Academy, of which the author is one of the 2020/2021 Fellows. The Charlemagne Prize Academy is a new project of the Charlemagne Prize Foundation, established in 2019, which supports innovative and creative research ideas in the field of Europe’s future challenges.





Read the full paper here.
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