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TransSOL Report Summary

Project ID: 649435
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TransSOL (European paths to transnational solidarity at times of crisis: Conditions, forms, role-models and policy responses)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The economic crisis affecting the European Union since 2008 has put European solidarity to a considerable endurance test. EU institutions and member states have fallen short of expectations when drafting policies to ensure that burdens are fairly shared in view of the current crises. Moreover, the idea of European solidarity is challenged by populist parties and xenophobic groups who have demonstrated considerable capacity to mobilise constituencies. At the same time, however, we see that solidarity is reinvigorated in times of crisis, particularly if we look at the numerous citizens and local groups providing help to the needy—including those across borders. Obviously, the crisis has not only challenged established forms of European solidarity but also triggered new forms of support and commitment.
In the light of these observations, a nuanced and in-depth assessment of European solidarity in times of crisis is of key importance for scientists, policymakers, stakeholders and society. TransSOL is dedicated to this objective. It aims to answer a number of crucial questions: To what extent are European citizens committed to European solidarity? And how strongly developed is the field of civil society organisations and initiatives rallying for European solidarity? Does European solidarity feature in the mass media, and do public discourses lead to the reproduction or corrosion of European solidarity? Beyond these descriptive purposes, we wish to bring light to analytic questions. Which are the detrimental or beneficial factors impinging on European solidarity at the levels of the citizens, the organised civil societies and public discourses? And what can we learn from civic practices and initiatives for European solidarity? That is, are there particularly successful role models, policies and legal instruments that have been shown to foster European solidarity?
Following these questions, TransSOL has formulated four objectives. To start with, our aim is to gather systematic data on contextual factors. Secondly, the project aims to assemble a systematic and cross-national database of research on solidarity in Europe. Thirdly, we will develop a multidimensional data set that will facilitate the measurement and analysis of attitudes and practices European solidarity at various levels—namely, the levels of individual citizens, organisations and inter-organisational fields, and the mass media and the public sphere. Finally, the project aims to identify best practices for European solidarity and develop evidence-based policy recommendations.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first period of the project, TransSOL researchers studied transnational solidarity at two basic levels. First, we examined the legal, political and socio-economic context, aiming to unveil beneficial or inhibiting conditions. In particular, we studied the role of EU and national legislation, case law and policies in reaction to the crisis. Our analyses have shown that solidarity is explicitly or implicitly enforced in the constitutions of all TransSOL countries and in EU treaties. Crisis-driven legislation, policies and ad hoc measures have generally downplayed solidarity as a sort of ‘idealistic’ value that has to recede against the imperatives of more ‘concrete’ principles. In spite of these trends, solidarity is being upheld in constitutional and/or relevant adjudication cases in several countries, especially in the litigation of welfare rights and services, equality and austerity laws. Solidarity has thus been mainly used as an antidote against the worst effects of crisis-driven measures.
Secondly, TransSOL researchers monitored, analysed and assessed innovative practices of solidarity in response to crisis, such as citizens’ initiatives and networks of cooperation amongst civil society actors. Again, we focused primarily on the fields of unemployment, immigration and asylum, and disabilities. Our analyses show that civil society is strongly committed to combatting hardships related to the European crises. The number of initiatives and organisations is on the rise—as is the number of activities and collaborations—even though the main focus of civic solidarity is a local one. Attempts to sustain and Europeanise civic solidarity are confronted with a number of challenges, namely the increasing need for volunteers and members, the shrinking funding opportunities, and the demand for cross-national cooperation and involvement in policymaking. Findings were discussed with civil society practitioners at a first roundtable meeting in Berlin.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Through its research, TransSOL is actively contributing to a better understanding of European solidarity in its forms, conditions and consequences. The research agenda of the first year has allowed us to make a number of advances.
TransSOL completed the first comprehensive mapping exercise of practices and initiatives of solidarity in Europe. More specifically, the project systematically mapped and analysed practices and initiatives of civil society organisations and networks in the fields of unemployment, immigration and asylum, and disabilities. Data retrieval was done in the eight countries participating in this consortium (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and the UK) and at the European level. Second, these analyses were particularly designed to identify the areas where a transnational scope of action is more diffused, to highlight the challenges and obstacles to be overcome, and to name the organisational solutions found. Third, our analyses were geared to spot those contextual factors hindering or promoting transnational solidarity on the individual, organisational and public levels. This was done primarily by identifying a series of indicators measuring the socio-economic, political, legal and administrative situations in the eight countries, and by an analysis of the ways in which legal and institutional systems establish and implement the principle of solidarity. Finally, our research opens doors to a comparative assessment of European solidarity. TransSOL promises to deliver ground-breaking insights because the eight countries represent very different (socio-economic, political and legal) contexts, thus allowing us to systematically compare the differential impact of crises and the related policy responses on solidarity in each of the countries.
Against this backdrop, the project has already made progress to achieve our envisaged impacts in at least three areas: (a) TransSOL identifies social needs and explores organised practices of transnational solidarity responding to them; (b) it improves the problem-solving capacity of civil society actors and policymakers by disseminating our research findings and conclusions, and (c) it empowers citizens and civil society through participation in generating and exchanging knowledge, primarily by conducting roundtables and other forms of networking and exchange. Overall, TransSOL will contribute to support the European integration process towards a more resilient and sustainable European society.

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