This volume originates from a conference on ‘Solidarity and its Crisis in the European Union’ that was held at the University of Hamburg from June 2-3, 2016, and aims to discuss how solidarity is applied in practice among the Member States of the Union. It is a vital contribution for understanding the solidarity of the European Union (EU). The two main parts of this volume deal with (i) the concept of solidarity and its theoretical and practical meaning, and (ii) how the crisis of solidarity has become a crucial test for the integration project of the Union. This volume brings a multidisciplinary perspective to its analysis of the crisis of solidarity in the EU. The volume stands for the idea that the good intentions of European solidarity are not enough unless the solidarity turns into practice.
The EU is widely considered a pioneer in regional integration. It is often said the Union has faced many crises before, but since recent times “a lack of solidarity in dealing with the many crises” (p. v) –such as financial turmoil, the Eurozone crisis, the rise of separatist and independence movements, Brexit, migration, refugees, nationalism, right wing populism as well as the threat of terrorism– is present in the Union. A deficit in appeals to solidarity in all of these issues is obvious, and this threatens the existence of the Union in its current state.
Although solidarity is a core value and is in the DNA of the Union, this volume argues that the member states have recently given bad examples. Solidarity was –and should remain– a motor for European integration. In other words, solidarity is the only ‘currency’ Europe needs as a prerequisite for the inner and true cohesion of the Union. The Union needs to take concrete actions to show what solidarity actually means, and apply it in the context of the EU. Without solidarity there is no cohesion of the Union, and if there is no cohesion, unfortunately, there is no capacity to act either inside or outside the Union. Solidarity and cohesion are intimately connected. Solidarity, as a prerequisite, is contextualized with “democracy, subsidiary, loyalty, sustainability and citizenship” (p. 40), as well as in the context of human and social rights. It is expected that as the EU shifts more competences from the national to the European level, that national solidarity will be transferred to the supranational level (p. 53). However, solidarity at the national level remained untouched.
The volume argues that European solidarity has to be defined more clearly and categorized into different forms; it defines four types of solidarity –transnational, supranational, intergovernmental, and international (p. 51). Transnational solidarity is based on the ideas, norms and values that transcend national boundaries (e.g. the slogans of workers movement). The European Trade Union Confederation and the European Works Council might be examples of the transnational solidarity, too. Supranational solidarity is “complementing or overarching solidarity at the national or subnational levels” (p. 52). It creates solidarity between European citizens, and is based on the sense of belonging as European citizens. Intergovernmental solidarity oscillates between the fundamental principles of the EU: “the protection of autonomy and the promotion of the community” (p. 52). Last but not least, international solidarity encompasses European solidarity among nation states in the international arena.
The most recent crisis has revealed that solidarity means different things to different people and different governments, and as a result, there is a growing need to reconsider and reshape what makes European solidarity. This volume illustrates the possible limits of solidarity in practice. Energy and migration policy are good examples. Both are high on the European agenda, and are central to the role of the Union according to the Treaty of Lisbon. Nevertheless, both of the policies are marked by the limitation of solidarity. For instance, in the case of migration policy, a growing tendency toward right wing extremism, which emerged with anti-refugee and anti-immigrant parties and movements (p. 81), is a product of the electoral campaigns in many member states (e.g. Poland, Hungary, etc.). It’s espousal by some political figures (e.g. Miloš Zeman in the Czech Republic, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, etc.) has led to an “outburst of xenophobia publicly and on social media” (p. 91). This trend contradicts the values of Europe –solidarity, harmonization, humanitarian protection (p. 79). The analysis in this volume indicates that this limitation has emerged due to the cost-benefit calculation of the Member States which often analyze their cost based on short-term perspectives, rather than on medium-term or long-term perspectives. As a result, the harmonization of the EU policy has been questioned from time to time.
The impact of the solidarity crisis has raised fundamental questions: first in terms of the limits of solidarity, and secondly in terms of the consequences of its absence –in other words, what are the implications of the lack of solidarity for the integration project and its future prospects? From its outset, European integration was based on the assumption and desirability of a degree of intra-community (intra-members) solidarity which shaped European identity. The European unification project lured the member states “into solidarity by creating a common European production base and market rather than by appealing to shared ideas” (p. 13). Therefore, EU solidarity could be understood as a bond that made up the ‘we’ of the Union. For this reason, the contributors suggest that “building solidarity on the basis of shared economic interests is probably still the best policy” of the Union (p. 14).
More attention has to be paid to truly implementing the ‘Solidarity Clause’ of the Lisbon Treaty, framed in Article 222 in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which formulates and creates explicit demands upon EU members to act jointly and to assist one another in the event of terrorist attacks and natural or man-made disasters. This kind of solidarity is not political talk but action on the ground, and in a broader context, solidarity could mean the duty of everybody [each member state] to do their ‘homework;’ or in other words to give support for the implementation of what is prescribed by the Article 222.
This edited volume is highly recommended to all who have even a basic interest in understanding the solidarity of the EU. Without maintaining European solidarity and expanding mutual understanding, the previously constructed ‘we’ identity of the EU could be threatened.