New open access book on solidarity and reciprocity in the European Union

2024/06/13 by

How do European citizens understand solidarity, reciprocity and fairness in the European Union? What do they think they owe their fellow Europeans in times of crisis?

These have been the key questions of the research project HEUREC , directed by Björn Egner, Hubert Heinelt and Jens Steffek at TU Darmstadt’s Institute for Political Science and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The results of this collaborative project that involved a group of 13 international researchers are now out as an open access book published by Routledge. Drawing on extensive focus group research across nine countries, the book shows that European citizens are ready to act in solidarity, but with the caveat that aid should not perpetuate existing problems in the recipient countries, such as corruption or nepotism. In case of a natural disaster, Europeans are prepared to offer help without any strings attached. However, they expect (and would accept) conditionalities whenever human decisions seem to be at the root of a political problem, as in economic and financial crisis scenarios. The results also show a remarkable resilience of the nation-state as a cognitive frame whenever it comes to solidarity relations. Citizens discuss problems of solidarity, reciprocity and distribution in the context of collective national experiences and narrated histories. Not least, our results document how sceptical citizens are of a potential transfer of social policy competences to the European Union. The proposal of a European-level unemployment insurance was met with scepticism of the practical and also the more principled kind. Across countries, citizens advocated subsidiarity instead of uniform schemes covering the whole EU.

Link to the book: here