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Home / Resources / News / Solidarity – even at times of crisis? Favourable conditions and practical models for Europe

Solidarity – even at times of crisis? Favourable conditions and practical models for Europe

European Alternatives takes part in a University of Siegen coordinated research project worth 2.5 million Euros analysing the impact of the crisis on transnational solidarity and proposing new solutions.

(C)Adolfo Senabre -

(C)Adolfo Senabre –

What is the furthest extent of European solidarity – particularly when individual countries are in deep crisis? The TransSol research project “European paths to transnational solidarity at times of crisis”, coordinated by the University of Siegen, aims to show how strong solidarity has now developed in Europe, which factors influence this trend and which beneficial basic conditions can be identified, especially at times of crisis. Ten partners from eight European countries submitted the project proposal and achieved success in the renowned Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The project will commence on 1 June 2015 with funding worth about 2.5 million Euros.

Anxieties about the future and a loss of confidence result from the financial and economic crisis. The question arises whether the popular appeal of solidarity has also suffered. How resilient are general announcements about solidarity, if factors like economic development or public budget plans change, and if the emphasis is on real focus groups like people with disabilities, asylum seekers or the unemployed? A series of further questions emerge here: are citizens actively helping others or just voicing statements of intent? How strongly is society placed – and indeed, every individual – to implement solidarity? Where are the limits? The research scope is far-reaching. When is it essential for politicians and the state to step in? What are the obstacles and supporting factors that enable people to become proactive on behalf of others? How strongly do anti-Europeans oppose the idea of solidarity? In what way have political decisions concerning immigration, asylum and unemployment contributed to the erosion of the solidarity principle? How strongly do media reports influence the appeal for solidarity at times of crisis?

Researchers, academics and practitioners based in Germany, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Poland, Denmark, Greece and Italy will conduct studies into all these aspects and aim at successful tools for the advancement of transnational solidarity. “It’s interesting that we’re considering states, which are both financial givers and takers, as well as integrating more recent EU members like Poland into the research project,” explains the project coordinator.

In a first step the project will focus on an analysis of the social context in the participant countries, in order to see whether solidarity is influenced, for instance, by the development of the economy, divergences in income, the unemployment rate, social welfare systems, levels of political participation, the variety of associations and political parties as well as migration legislation. In a next step, a status report will be prepared on existing practices and initiatives of solidarity. “We’re looking, for example, at humanitarian support programmes,” explains Christian Lahusen, “In Greece, citizens have supported the fragile healthcare system, but medication was also sent from other countries and the doctors work on a voluntary basis in this crisis-ridden country.” However, cases of political solidarity will also be incorporated into the study, too. For example: are people in other EU countries interested in supporting the rights of Greek citizens, or do they want to curtail these? To what extent have young people throughout Europe supported protests in France? How intensively do residents support refugees and back a sharing of responsibilities between member states?

Following on this mapping exercise a survey of the general population will be conducted with the objective of shedding light on the popular appeal of solidarity in the various aspects. Subsequently, interviews will be conducted with civil society organizations and NGO-networks at a national and European level about their experiences in relation to transnational solidarity within and between European countries. Furthermore, researchers will also analyse the media debate on solidarity. “We’re especially interested in which way messages are conveyed and discussed in the media reports,” explains Lahusen.

The culmination of the project will be a concluding catalogue of best practice models and policy recommendations. “A guide will be compiled for citizens, organizations and governments to implement the support measures more effectively. In this way, the TransSOL project will advance European integration towards a more stable and longer-term oriented society,” says the research project coordinator. He further adds that recommendations will be drafted for policy-makers and stakeholders because individual solidarity requires beneficial institutional conditions and public support. Moreover, civic solidarity ought not be an opt-out for the state and politicians when they are sceptical of bringing these issues under control.”

Participating organizations: University of Siegen (Germany), Université de Genève (Switzerland), Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (France), Glasgow Caledonian University (Great Britain), University of Crete (Greece), University of Florence (Italy), University of Warsaw (Poland), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), University of Sheffield (Great Britain), European Alternatives (Germany, Great Britain). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 649435.

See coverage in EveningTimes