Solidarity in Europe

Lecture at the Willy-Brandt-School of Governance, University of Erfurt, January 2019

Solidarity in Europe

Lecture at the Willy-Brandt-School of Governance, University of Erfurt, January 2019[1]


[1] For the support of this lecture, I thank Mrs. Dr. Füchtner and Mr. Gherman. Both are working in the EU Affairs, Regional and Structural Policy Unit of the Thuringian State Chancellery.


There can be no better times for discussing the question of how European development will take shape and what normative aspects it will have to follow. Two days ago, the Brexit deal in the British House of Commons crashed crashing. But the Prime Minister passed the vote of no confidence yesterday. 

At the same time, however, Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, also passed a vote of no confidence. 

In Athens, as well as in London, society is split over the question of national identity. Tsipras has decided not only to take Greek society out of the stranglehold of the Troika, but also to reconcile it with the North Macedonian neighbour. It turns out, then, that Europe is not only arguing about division and secession, but also about reconciliation. That's a good sign. 

And I am particularly pleased for Alexis Tsipras, whom I call my comrade. 

I will present 8 theses in my subsequent presentation. In the reasoning of these theses I will enter into various empirical investigations.

Main arguments and thoughts

  • In 2007 – the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – the well-known British historian Timothy Gordon Ash proposed six strands for a new vision of Europe: freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity. He expressed his hope that these strands could become the essential elements of a political narrative sustaining European integration after the end of the cold war.
  • Nowadays solidarity seems to be the lifeline for the future of Europe. It was the anchor of the President of the Commission´s Speech of the State of Europe in October last year and is high-ranking within the political debate of the European election. The questions are if Europe needs more solidarity and what should be constitutive for a Europe of solidarity? Several questions should be added: Are European citizens ready for solidarity? Is the EU political system ready to create further solidarity? Has solidarity a chance within the EU-27?
  • If you compare European countries with other countries solidarity seems to be one of the characteristic values for their citizens: There is a strong conviction that the fruits of economic growth should be distributed following the principle of social justice and that the acting of a system of free enterprises should be cushioned by a social security system – it is the welfare state and the social market economy which are the results of this consensus.
  • But: How about solidarity on the EU level? Are European citizens ready for solidarity within the EU? Is there a strong willingness for some kind of institutionalized solidarity on EU level 

1: Considering the attitude of its citizens Europe has the potential of being a space of solidarity.

A research project carried out by the University of Leipzig and the Free University of Berlin and financed by the European Commission and the German Research Foundation is focused on these questions.


[1] The findings are very interesting. They are based on a comparative survey in 2016 – the Transnational European Solidarity Study – which evaluates telephone interviews with 12,500 respondents in 13 countries:

An overwhelmingly majority of European citizens support the idea of a welfare state solidarity: Over two-thirds of the respondents believe that the EU should be responsible for the well-being of the following vulnerable groups (Figure 3): the sick, the elderly, and the unemployed. Furthermore, the majority of the citizens in each country is in favour of European welfare state solidarity (Figure 4). When asking to what extent respondents think that income inequalities between rich and poor European should be reduced the survey finds again a three quarter majority for the reduction of inequalities. And again the majority of respondents in each country supports this idea.

The results are similar for the question if differences between rich and poor countries in the EU should be reduced, even if wealthier countries in the EU have to pay more – the researchers call it territorial solidarity. Again the majority exists across the countries and within each country (Figure 7 and 8).

Another questions is related to fiscal solidarity – whether EU citizens agree, that in times of crises the better off countries should give financial help to other EU countries facing severe economic difficulties (Figure 1). Again the survey states a double majority in favour of fiscal solidarity. Here, citizens´ willingness to help European crisis countries is admittedly lower than for regions within their own nation state. But this level of willingness is significantly higher than for countries that are not part of the EU. The same result is valid for territorial solidarity – solidarity with countries outside the EU is clearly less pronounced than between EU countries. For both, Europe undoubtedly constitutes a distinct space of solidarity.

The study shows that the solidarity within a country has the strongest support, however solidarity within Europe still has a strong support and turns out to be stronger than the global one. Regardless the exception of the “refugee solidarity” the authors come to the conclusion, that EU is for the majority of its citizens an existent and demarcated space of solidarity (see Figure below).


2: But a multitude of factors on the national level are influencing the chance for a realization of this potential

This positive insight does not give us any evidence if those positive attitude runs in the willingness to pay more taxes in order to realise European solidarity. The Tess-study asks this question and also considers another important aspect for a strong solidarity which is related to the political game within countries: It analyses if the definition of supporters and opponents goes along with strong social and political cleavages between these groups. Strong cleavages could strengthen the mobilization of minorities. And socially and culturally determined opponents with a preference for specific parties could become forceful actors in the political arena.

We don´t have access to the results of the TESS-study on these factors. But from the available data you see that for example citizens from crisis-ridden Mediterranean countries facing high unemployment rates in the aftermath of the crisis show the highest approval rates for helping the unemployed (Figure 4). In contrast, in Austria, Slowakia, Poland and Germany, where unemployment has been low, citizens exhibit significantly less agreement with European social security. Also in the case of the measured territorial solidarity the country differences are rather high, with higher levels of approval in southern and lower approval rates in northern and western European countries (Figure 8). Another differentiated picture shows the analysis of the “refugee solidarity”: The approval rates indicate a solid majority for a redistribution of refugees among the EU member states but the rate of citizens approving redistribution measures within each country does not meet the 50 per cent threshold (Figure 12). Thus, the second aspect of the double majority criterion is not fulfilled. The disapproval of refugee solidarity is strongest in the Visegrád countries. Furthermore in these countries (besides Cyprus) there is no majority in favour of Muslim refugees´ right to stay – of refugees who are persecuted because of belonging to a Muslim community (Figure 10). We clearly see an influence of the economic and cultural situation within the countries on the solidarity perception.


3: The fact that a country/region was strongly supported by EU-funding must not necessarily lead to a strong support of EU-funding solidarity.

Let´s see what we can learn of the perception of solidarity if we take a look on the regional level – let´s turn to Thuringia. How about the attitude of Thuringian citizens? Thuringia has benefited to a great extent from the European Union. Since 1991 we received up to 10 billion Euro only from the European Structural and Innovation Funds. This money went directly into the strengthening of research and innovation, into the promotion of employment, education and lifelong learning, into the improvement of social inclusion and the fight against poverty, into urban development and rural development, risk management and flood protection. Besides Thuringian citizens, companies, farmers, local communities and many more took advantage from additional EU money coming from the directly management support programs, for example for agriculture, environmental development or research. But EU support was not only monetary. After the reunification the EU helped to accelerate the transformation in all five East-German Länder by promoting the rule of law and democratic political and administrative structures. In short: Without the support of the EU Thuringia would look different today. 

It would be interesting to see if this profit might have any impact on the readiness of Thuringian citizens for solidarity for other European citizens. To my regret, we don´t have similar studies as the TESS for the opinion of Thuringian citizens. We only have data about the perception of the EU in Thuringia. Only recently a study was published given in order by the Ministry of Work, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family about the attitude of Thuringian citizens towards EU funding programs and the EU itself. 24,2% of the interviewed stated a very positive attitude towards the EU, 57,5 % a rather positive attitude (Figure 84). Interestingly, only 7,9 % showed a very positive attitude towards the EU-funding of the European Structural and Innovation Funds, further 40,6% a rather positive attitude. About 14 % did not answer the question (Figure 86). Which amazes me mostly: the majority of the interviewed is convinced that Thuringia is in need of the EU-funding (88%) (Figure 89), and knows that Thuringia receives EU-funding (81,5%) // (Figure 90) – but: 42% of the interviewed think that Thuringia is disadvantaged in comparison to other European regions, 19% did not give an answer to this question (Figure 91). 49,2% share the opinion that the profit of Thuringia from EU-funding is rather low, 10% did not give a judgement on this (Figure 93). This is a sobering insight in view of the fact, that Thuringia has belonged for a long time to the areas with the highest eligibility and is now taking advantage of the status of a “transition region” with a higher eligibility than the majority of the EU regions.

EU-funding belongs to what the authors of the TESS-study call “territorial solidarity”. What might tell us the Thuringia attitudes towards territorial solidarity about solidarity in Europe? The authors of the Thuringian study draw a very important conclusion: “Deprivation feelings and unknowingness are the fertile soil for a critical attitude towards EU-funding.”[2]


4: A sense of collective deprivation is a force of political mobilization against the EU when brought to expression by an EU-critical political party.

On a national level we experience an interesting phenomena showing into a similar direction: The Thuringian Monitor, a survey about the political and social attitudes of Thuringian citizens, points out for some years now, that citizens are convinced that their own living conditions have improved during the last years, but when asked about the general political mood they complain about a general dissatisfaction within the country. This opinion reflects the conviction of East Germans that they don´t participate from equivalent living conditions despite a positive economic development of the five East-German Länder.

Within Germany we observe a socio-cultural cleavage due to the different biographies of East and West Germans. The political perception of East Germans seems to be closely connected with an experienced devaluation of one´s professional career and a strong feeling of deprivation.

Only recently, a study of the TU Dresden in cooperation with the University Duisburg-Essen confirmed this. It came to the conclusion, that “the experience of collective offense, devaluation and declassification” following the political, economic and social changes after the reunification is a driving force behind the growing populism in East-Germany. In Germany as a whole the follower of the AfD are characterized by “fears of a devaluation of their life style, their own culture and their common identity as a basis for solidarity”. The refugee crises was identified not as the cause of populism but as a catalyst. The migration debate made some cleavages apparent that were already existent before. One of the cleavages has to do with existential fears due to an expected or already experienced shortcoming of work, housing and social benefits.

As the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) as most of the populist parties tends to be anti-European, the national cleavage has a strong effect on the EU level as it strengthens the anti-European discourse within Germany.

5: So far, the EU tends to ignore the political impact of social disparities as well as deprivation in handling severe crises. Especially the economic crises in the South-European countries give an example how EU-austerity as a precondition of financial support led to massive social disruptions in the affected countries.

One of the common assumptions that during the Euro-crisis the European Union proved its willingness to help the other member states by granting them financial aid from ESM misses two important points. Namely the price that would have been paid if the Union hadn’t granted that support and the price that was paid by the member states that received it.  

In May 2010 the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, agreed to lend Greece a hundred and ten billion euros, however the Troika and other creditors raised most of the bailout tranche from capital markets through low-interest bond issues, and then loaned the money to Greece at much higher rates.

Troika's demands as a condition for passing the austerity packages (14 in total) between 2010 and 2017 to Greece (selection):

  • The number of public-owned companies shall be reduced from 6,000 to 2,000
  • 22% cut in minimum wage from €750 to €585 per month
  • Beginning of 2012: 150,000 jobs cut from state sector by 2015 //  15,000 by the end of 2012
  • Pension cuts worth €300 million in 2012
  • 7% cut in the salaries of public and private employees
  • A uniform pay scale for civil servants. Wages cut by 30%
  • Monthly pensions above €1,200 cut by 20%. Retirees under 55 years old, the pension over €1,000 is cut by 40%
  • Limit of €800 per month to 13th and 14th month pension instalments; abolished for pensioners receiving over €2,500 a month
  • Average retirement age for public sector workers increased from 61 to 65
  • Education spending cut by closing or merging schools
  • VAT rises to 23% (from 19% // Transfer of many products to the high rate), 13% (from 9% // covers fresh food, energy, water and hotel stays) and 5.5% (from 4% // rate covers medicines and press)
  • a rise of the petrol tax to 15%

The austerity measures had dramatical consequences: in 2015 - 25% of the workforce was officially unemployed (twofold increase from pre-austerity levels), the unemployment rate for young people under 24 reached almost 50%, the average family income plunged to 2003 level, at 40% of the Greek children were officially living below the poverty line.

2018: the unemployment rate 20 %, for young people under 24 the rate is still extremely high 42%.

„Solidarity in return for each country‘s own responsibility“ became the familiar slogan in the course of the debt crisis. And while there is nothing wrong about connecting solidarity to a certain responsibility (solidarity is not charity!), there is a problem when solidarity is being viewed in a strictly economic context. We can win the fight, but we could lose the war. This particularly applies when solidarity is being viewed as a short term rescue measure and a long-term goal (collective interest) is either lost sight of or being completely ignored.

It is essential that apart from focusing on responsibility and claims we also counteract the trends of growing social inequality within and as result also between the member states.

Using the financial language we could speak about long term investment, or a fair one, where not a short-term profit, but a long-term stable growth is the goal.   

In the case with Greece budgetary constraints basically destroyed the social system, labour market reforms fulfilled economic conditions, but left entire generations jobless.

According to the official numbers 355.000 people emigrated from Greece between 2011- 2018, mostly young well educated men and women. Brain drain like no other endangers social and welfare system.   

The way the European troika dealt with the financial crisis by imposing austerity policy on Spain, Portugal and Greece has endangered the fragile solidarity balance in Europe. Especially in the case of German government it can be seen that it acted much more in the self-interest than in the collective one. On the one hand Germany was very much in the favour of providing financial support, because one of the country’s biggest fears was (and still is) to lose its sales markets in Europe, on the other the price tag Germany attached to that support was so high that it partially destroyed the labour markets and destabilized the social systems. Furthermore troika’s approach is to be criticized for its highly undemocratic nature that left the citizens of affected countries with no possibility to react to those decisions. In a nation state the government that introduced the austerity policy can be voted out of the office, in case of the European Union the European Council and Commission could only be blamed but not taken into account. This enhances the anti-European sentiments and encourages the citizens to vote for the populist governments.[3]

“Austerity very clearly has deepened or even created this great gap, political fragmentation between the north and the south, between the debtors and the creditor countries that is very, very difficult to fix, and has had dramatic political consequences in terms of fueling the populist forces.”[4]


6: The refugee crises gives another example on how the lack of EU-support for the most affected countries led to a overburdening of the political and administrative systems of some member states. In both cases (euro- and refuge-crisis) citizens’ dissatisfaction in the affected countries was an important factor of political mobilization.

“Member States have not yet found the right balance between the responsibility each must assume on its own territory; and the solidarity all must show if we are to get back to a Schengen area without internal borders. I am and will remain strictly opposed to internal borders. Where borders have been reinstated, they must be removed. Failure to do so would amount to an unacceptable step back for the Europe of today and tomorrow. The Commission and several Council presidencies have put numerous compromise solutions on the table. I call on the Council Presidency to now make the decisive step to broker a sustainable solution on a balanced migration reform. We cannot continue to squabble to find ad-hoc solutions each time a new ship arrives. Temporary solidarity is not good enough. We need lasting solidarity - today and forever more.” (Jean-Claude Juncker, State of the European Union 2018)

In August 2015 after the refugee crisis reached its peak Germany and Austria decided to suspend the Dublin II agreement and opened their borders. The refugee crisis was (and still is) another major challenge for the European Union.

In 2014 the responses of the countries to that question were very different: Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark accepted, per capita, the most asylum applications in Europe. Which is especially remarkable if we consider that Switzerland is not part of EU, but was doing much more than Spain, Ireland or Poland.

The solidarity moved from the European to the national level. When Germany opened its borders the refuges were welcomed by the local volunteers bearing food, water and toys for the children. In times of modern communication those pictures spread like wildfire.

Especially the war in Syria and the resulting mass migration made something obvious that should have been clear long before: the Dublin Agreement doesn’t work and wasn’t designed for handling mass migration. The differences in geography and generosity created huge imbalances in the system. Located on the external borders Italy and Greece were geographically forced to carry the main burden and handle the most arrivals of the refugees.  And since there was no European solution those countries started to wave migrants through instead of letting them apply for asylum in the country of arrival.   

The Dublin System made the EU country responsible for the refugee, where he or she firstly arrived and placed a disproportionate burden on the European member states situated on the external borders of the EU. The Schengen system moved the EU borders to the geographic edge of the EU and theoretically made from inner national borders the common ones. In practice however what should have been a common task became a national one, especially for such countries as Greece, Italy or Spain.

Italy was another country that has been asking for European help since years, because it couldn’t handle the refugee arrivals on its own anymore. 2015 according to UNHCR there were 153.842 who arrived in Italy over the Mediterranean Sea (170.100 in 2014). In March 2018 the populist party “Five Star Movement” largely won the Italian general Election. The party celebrated great success especially in the South of the country.

As a result the lack of financial, logistical and political support from the European side made the population of the affected countries believe that they are left alone.

The Emergency Relocation Mechanism was aimed to ease the burden on Greece and Italy and relocate the migrants to the other member states. Initially the agreement reached was talking about 160.000 people, who had to move. In the end there were only 35.000 who were moved to the other countries. Hungary took none, Slovakia 16 people from Greece and the Czech Republic 12 from Greece.

In 2018 the migration numbers in Greece and in Italy largely went down, because of the agreements with Turkey and Libya. However at the same time the number of the people who reached Spain through the Mediterranean route raised to 61.100 which is a plus of 128%. It is obvious that due to its geographic location Spain is the next country to be hit by migration.

These numbers show how important it is to establish a common European asylum system. What we observe now is that the EU is putting a lot of effort in strengthening the external borders to keep the migrants out of the EU. This cannot be a long-term solution. Only by finding a common ground and establishing a solidarity mechanism within the European Union, Brussels could start addressing the root causes of migration and investing into development aid.  


7: The political elites of the EU should bear this in mind: the existing European space of solidarity and the fragility of solidarity in times of growing polarization within and between member states. The EU should take care for competences and budget that allows to prevent further social and economic drifting apart between the member states. The demonstration of an ability to act against growing social disparities would be a reasonable answer against the rise of populist parties. Solidarity only has a future in Europe if a core Europe will focus on the prevention of the breakdown of our social model (Habermas).


Only a few weeks ago some European citizens from different backgrounds and countries launched an appeal for an in-depth transformation of the European institutions and policies in the “Guardian”: “Our manifesto to save Europe from itself.” The starting point was the diagnosis that “our continent is caught between political movements whose programme is confined to hunting down foreigners and refugees, on the one hand, and on the other, those who claim to be European but in reality claim to consider that hard-core liberalism and the spread of competition are enough to define a political project. They don´t recognize that this lack of social ambition is what leads to feelings of abandonment." The medicine these citizens are recommending, is that Europe must build a new model to ensure a fair and lasting social development of its citizens. The proposals are very original: to create a budget of democratization financed by four sources, e.g. by the highest wealth owners. This budget could be used for example for an ambitious investment programme to transform our model of growth. To get out of the present technocratic impasse they propose the creation of a European assembly, with 80% of its members from the national parliaments and 20% from the European Parliament. It would not replace the existing institutions. It would vote on the taxes and the new budget of democratisation which would be the starting point for a new fiscal and social pact.

Habermas comes to a very similar conclusion. In an interview with the German weekly paper “Die ZEIT” he declares, that the political inability to address the social inequality on the European level turned elections into in an easy game for many populist parties across Europe. The right-wing populism ows its existence to a wide-spread perception that the EU lacks the political will to be capable of acting. What could the remedy from his point of view? Habermas thinks that the core Europe which is currently in decline could be - in the form of a Euro-Union with the capability and willingness of acting – a power against the further destruction of the much summoned social model.

From this point of view the proposals by the French President Macron at least show the courage to shape the future of Europe. His suggestions to reform the common currency zone include the following:      

  • A common finance minister
  • A common euro budget
  • A common Euro-Parliament (no extra MEPs, the MEPs from Eurozone countries will automatically become member)   

These proposals however were awaiting German answer for longer than a year. In November 2018 the German finance minister, Olaf Scholz published a paper called „Road Map for the Negotiations at European Level” (Grundlage für die Verhandlungen auf europäischer Ebene). The paper is a result of long negations with Scholz French colleague Bruno Le Maire as well representatives from northern European states and Netherlands. The detailed analysis of the German paper is a topic that needs an extra lecture. But it can be summarized as follows: Macrons political visions were transformed into technical details and Macrons big reform suggestions were shrink to minimum.  Euro Budget should become a part of the common European budget instead of installing an extra financial item. German Federal Chancellery is extremely cautious about any suggestions connected to the common currency, especially to those suggestions that would cost Germany more money.

In course of the latest events it was very important that Germany finds an answer to Macron’s reform proposals. Eurozone must be outfitted with sufficient competencies and budgetary means. This will help to intervene in the case of crisis and will prevent the member states from further drifting apart economically and socially. German answer to the French suggestions doesn’t contain enough financial resources, but it is probably the best one possible under current political leadership. Good news is that this is the step into the correct direction, there is hope that more will follow. More investment into social systems and economic development of the weak regions must be triggered.

The troika did manage to address the crisis, but it didn’t manage to deliver the answer to the social question. The idea of the common currency should not only be about fiscal stability, but also about prevention of the breakdown of the social model. Euro-crisis and Greek case in particular showed however that we still trapped within fiscal stability thinking.

Every European citizen must be certain that in case of insolvency of his/her country of residence there is a European system that will save national social system from total breakdown. This social element must be one of the most important stones in the future foundation of Europe.  


8: A politics of convergence will be difficult to implement within the EU-27. Especially the former communist countries seek to follow their own national-oriented way despite a strong support for the EU within the population. The South-East European Countries have benefited economically and socially to a great extent by EU-funding and membership of the internal market. But due to their specific political legacy the ruling parties don´t share all political values of the EU-12-member states. Politics aims to demarcate with “national solutions” to the EU value consensus

The powerlessness of the EU during the refuge crisis strengthened the NGOs and civil society on the one hand, which was an impressive achievement of the democratic society. On the other the crisis created an opportunity for the certain political elites to win the votes of the right-wing voters as well as of the undecided ones. Since the European Union doesn’t have any functioning answer to peoples’ concerns and fears they would vote for the “national” option that seemed to work in the past. 

The political attitudes towards the refugee question culminated in the rise of populism and in case of Visegrád states also in renaissance of nation state idea. The Hungarian president appealed to its nation’s collective memory by saying that Europe is to be “overrun” and will no longer be Christian[5]. The right-wing populism is benefiting from the widespread feeling that the EU lacks the will to become politically effective. The European Union manages crises instead of solving them. And while it is obvious that the nation-state cannot offer any effective solutions anymore, it is also clear that the Union cannot yet deliver as well.

While the Euro-crisis cracked the EU into the North and the South, the refugee-crisis split it between the West and the East.

In the case of Euro-crisis the European Union showed that it is primarily a “community of mutual benefits” and not “community of benefits and risk sharing”.

In the case of refugee-crisis the European Union showed that it is primarily a “community of nation states (self-interest)” and not “community of collective responsibility”.

Other conclusions from the crisis include the important insight that there are deep differences between Visegrád states’ and other EU members’ understanding of the common European values. Apart from migration policy and focusing of those states on “national” identity, “traditional” culture and self-determination, we in particular should stress the problems with the rule of law (Rechtsstaatlichkeit).  Because of their intransigence on asylum policy and their attacks on the rule of law, Hungary and Poland are suffering from a degree of isolation not seen since their accession to the EU in 2004.

All this lead us to a conclusion that is unlikely to reach an agreement between EU-27 and increase its political efficiency. At the same time it is essential that Europe stars delivering solutions to the current and future problems. The only way out at the moment seems to be core Europe or “multispeed Europe” as one five scenarios presented in White Book published by the European commission.   



In the preceding eight theses, based on empirical studies, I have illustrated why the European Union is a normative solidarity room. 

Finally, however, one has to look at the relationship between solidarity and Unitarianism. In other words, how much diversity tolerates solidarity? 

For example, in the IPG Journal, Waltraud Schelke from the LSE, argues in relation to the monetary union very comprehensibly as follows: "The diversity of its members makes it politically difficult for the monetary union to express solidarity. Although diversity is exactly what makes risk sharing economically advantageous. Someone who really differs from the other is not easily trusted. But at the same time: if someone is exposed to the other risks than oneself, then this one can be insured for the case of emergency. Because both is true, monetary solidarity is only a by-product of the national interests and is subject to explicit restrictions. Nevertheless, solidarity can be observed, even on a historically unprecedented scale. This political-economic paradox of diversity sets limits to the further development of the monetary union. One may regret these limits of solidarity, but it would be politically short-sighted to simply ignore this circumstance and force the completion of the Union. Neither European welfare states nor the US monetary union have been created in two or three decades. Also a union of democratic nation states must take its time. It is government’s right and duty to represent national differences and to agree to further integration only if their own weal depends upon it."

This idea can also be applied to the question of European solidarity considering the distribution of refugee numbers. I also support the idea that all EU Member States must demonstrate solidarity to master the tasks of migration. However, this means that all EU countries have to support countries such as Greece, which has to deal with the burden of the initial reception. And we have to keep in mind that even 30 years after the peaceful revolution, the countries of the former Eastern Bloc still have less experience with migration and integration than countries like France or Netherlands. This is another example, when diversity must be taken into account before solidarity can be claimed. Even if it means different burden sharing, at least at the beginning. In addition to the task of the integration of refugees, such tasks as border security, initial reception and care, etc., are more important. Last but not least, I want to reiterate a question that touches the issue of solidarity. The question of whether the EU works better when moving at different speeds. I have already made clear in my theses that I agree with the proposal of Jürgen Habermas.

2017 Alexis Tsipras asked in a post whether "Europe of different speeds" could be the answer to the apparent weakness. He believes that mountain climbers connected by a rope can move only at the same speed. If they don’t, it will depend on the strength and ability of each individual, to remain in the group of the most powerful or continue alone. In his view, that does not mean more freedom. I can understand Alexis’ position. But I argue against the distinction between two things: Solidarity is the responsibility of the stronger for the weaker. Of course, freedom is additional and not an alternative, e.g.: to be able to introduce models of the social union also on behalf of majority and not unanimity.


In this sense, I thank you for your attention.


[1] J. Gerhards/H. Lengfeld/Z.S. Ignácz/F.K. Kley/M. Priem: How strong is European Solidarity? Berlin Studies on the Sociology of Europe - Working paper No. 37, Berlin February 2018.

[2] Evaluation of the Information and Publicity Measures of the ESF in Thuringia 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 - Final Report Module 1 2016/17 - commissioned by the Thuringian Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health, Women and Family by aproxima Society for Market and Social Research Weimar mbH, p. 117.

[3] The German approach is particularly incomprehensible if we think about its historical experience after the reunification. The fiscal instruments like solidarity surcharge (Solidaritätszuschlag) and solidarity pact (Solidarpakt) have been developed to align the living and social conditions between West and East. It is evident that Germany has recognized the crucial importance of solidarity in order to stabilize the state on the mid- and long term basis. It could be expected that especially in the German case the mistakes that have been made after reunification would have been analyzed, thought through and taken in account especially during the Euro-crisis. Instead Germany understood its leading role in Europe mainly by transforming its economic weight into political power and enforcing its economic self-interest. The Euro-Crisis shows that domestic political interests weight more than broader European concerns. In the end if behaved in a different way Merkel would have had to sell the idea of sending financial resources to the other European Countries to her own voters. And there are few things German fear more than the rising prices and hyperinflation. German population already experienced the loss of their savings after World War I and Merkel was very much aware of the fact that touching some parts of the collective memory could result in a political disaster. This is the cautious perspective. On the other hand there is a difference between good and visionary politics. Sometimes it is important to call for the sense of responsibility and common good. Merkel could have done this by referring to the reunification experience and the importance of financial aid that has been provided by West to the former GDR. Germany has been one of primary beneficiaries of the European Union. Instead of referring to the aid from the self-interest perspective it could have been viewed as a special responsibility of Germany to support the other members during the crisis. Instead Merkel triggered the stereotypes of lazy Greeks in her speech during an event held by her party in Meschede in May 2011:  "It is also important that people in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal are not able to retire earlier than in Germany -- that everyone exerts themselves more or less equally. That is important. (…) We can't have a common currency where some get lots of vacation time and others very little. That won't work in the long term."

[4] Amandine Crespy, a political scientist at the Institute for European Studies at the Free University of Brussels, from New York Times: 2 Views of Angela Merkel’s Legacy: Stoic Leadership, and Economic Malpractice

 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/01/business/angela-merkel-economics-populism.html am 10.12.2018.

[5] This rhetoric reminded of the times when Hungary was fighting against the Ottoman Empire. Medieval Hungary was ruled by the Ottoman Empire between 1541 and 1699 and through religious oppression, massacres and deportations the composition of the ethnic population was largely changed. By refereeing to the “Islamic” danger Viktor Orban was sure his words would fall on fruitful ground. The other Visegrád states followed his example, announcing that they will offer refuge only to Christians (Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic).