SP 3: How strong is solidarity among European citizens and the member states of the European Union?

Second project phase

The crisis of the European banking system, and of the Eurozone, and the economic crisis in some of the member states of the European Union have put the solidarity between the member states to a test. While many scientists and political actors assume that solidarity exists on the nation state level only and cannot be reached on a European level, other scholars have contesting views. They suggest that the prerequisites for a European solidarity already exist, concluding that the process of deepening and democratization of the European Union can move forward.

In this project we pose the following two research questions: 1) To what extent do citizens of a member state of the EU show solidarity to citizens from another member state and how does this level of European solidarity relate to national and global solidarity? 2) Which factors are relevantfor explaining differences regarding attitudes towards European solidarity? Can the supporters and opponents of European solidarity be determined based on their social position, and their  ideological standing and does this then lead to cleavages boosting political conflicts? A standardized survey conducted in five member states of the European Union will serve as the empirical basis for the research. We are thereby not interested in analyzing the social field of collective actors trying to create a new definition of transnational solidarity. lnstead, we will analyze average citizens' meaning of solidarity, and look at how the social space of solidarity is structured.


First project phase

Collective Memory as a Basis for a European Identity

With a further deepening of European integration, many observers believe in an increased need for a collective European identity. In research, a shared interpretation of the past is often cited as an important element of a collective identity and, for sure, this played an important role in the context of the emergence of national identities. With the increasing European and global integration of national states one can now ask whether and how the past interpretations specific to the nation-state have opened for multiple and transnational memories. Accordingly, this sub-project examines the following research questions:

  1. To what extent are the citizens of four countries in Western and Eastern Europe connected to their national collective memory? To what extent have they adopted European or global interpretations of history or multiple interpretations of history?
  2. To what extent references to non-national events are found in the "official" national understanding of history and in how far do the interpretations of the past by citizens corresponf with the "official" understanding of history?
  3. Which factors at the macro and individual level can explain the opening of a national collective memory and the emergence of a European / transnational memory?
  4. Finally, the effect interpretation of the past has on the identification with Europe and on attitudes towards European integration will be considered.

Focus group interviews in four countries provide the empirical basis of the first phase of the study. In the second phase we would like to schedule a standardized survey in the same four countries.

Research brief