Is solidarity in Europe fading?

Thursday 1 October, 19.00 until 21.00, BiTS Hochschule, Bernburger Straße 31, 10963, Berlin International Satellites

This event is free.

In July, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, described the situation in Europe as a drama which was hard to beat. As the EU was debating the future of Greece, and German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble threatened the country with expulsion from the Eurozone, tensions seemed to escalate. ‘Italy does not want Greece to exit the euro, and to Germany I say: enough is enough’, the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, told the newspaper Il Messaggero. Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, warned that a Grexit risked ‘fatal consequences for Germany’s international reputation’.

Frictions have also emerged on other issues, such as refugees. The German interior minister, Thomas de Mazière, has accused the countries of the south of ‘violating’ the EU’s Dublin Regulations while thousands are left stranded on the small islands of Lampedusa or Kos. Last autumn, Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue operation was stopped because other EU nations (including Germany) were not willing to support the programme. Instead, politicians such as Bavaria’s governor call for a return of border controls with Austria and other neighboring countries to stop ‘illegal’ immigration.

So, is solidarity in Europe fading? Or could it be that tensions, albeit less open, have been present since the founding days of the EU? After all, the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl once said that if he had held a national referendum about the introduction of a common currency, the euro would never have come into existence. Are we witnessing a diplomatic crisis or a deeper political one? And what does solidarity mean? Is it perhaps the case, that ‘true solidarity’ was never part of the EU`s project since this would have presupposed a much closer political union?

Do we perhaps need to differentiate between Europe and the EU? While many Germans feel that ‘financial solidarity’ should be limited in relation to Greece, there have been impressive examples of support for refugees in most cities. Also, a great number of Europeans (including Germans) appreciate the possibility to travel and work abroad as a result of the Schengen agreement. Not just that: contrary to the crisis talk, opinion polls show that a majority in Germany agree that the continent has become more open and that this is a good thing.

How can we make sense of these seeming contradictions? Do we really need to give up the positive vision of a united, peaceful Europe? 

You can listen to a recording of this debate on the Time To Talk website.

Christian Moos
secretary general, German Section of European Federalists

Dr Weronika Priesmeyer-Tkocz
programme director, European Academy Berlin

Dr Funda Tekin
senior researcher, Institut für Europäische Politik

Georgios Varouxakis
professor of the history of political thought, Queen Mary University of London; author, Mill on Nationality

Bruno Waterfield
Brussels correspondent, The Times; co-author, No Means No

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36

Produced by
Sabine Beppler-Spahl chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36

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