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Future perspectives on EU solidarity after the COVID-19 crisis: Moving from ‘second-order’ to ‘first order’ solidarity

Sophie Pornschlegel

Date: 16/02/2022
The expression ’European solidarity’ regained popularity again during the COVID-19 crisis. Political leaders used it frequently to call for cooperation between EU member states and legitimise joint decisions. At the height of the first wave of infections in April 2020, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez emphasised the importance of solidarity for European cooperation – and the dangers of a lack thereof: “Without solidarity, there can be no cohesion, without cohesion there will be disaffection and the credibility of the European project will be severely damaged.”

But what role does solidarity play in the EU? And what does it entail in practice? The paper attempts to answer these questions by exploring the perspectives for EU solidarity during and after the COVID-19 crisis. It develops the notions of ‘first-order’ and ‘second- order’ solidarity to differentiate between the national and European level, to categorise various forms and dimensions of EU solidarity, and on that basis, suggests different options to foster EU solidarity in the future. In light of growing political and socioeconomic divides, the EU should invest in solidarity mechanisms to re-establish European cohesion.

This paper is featured in the Charlemagne Prize Academy Annual Report 2021 – on the Future of the Union, called “Europe at the Crossroads – New Perceptions of Solidarity”. As a 2021 Charlemagne Prize Academy Fellow, EPC analyst Sophie Pornschlegel conducted research on the link between democracy and solidarity in the EU in the COVID-19 crisis. You can find more information about the Charlemagne Prize Academy here.

Read the full paper here.
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