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Lack of solidarity EU Member States in times of crisis undermines European Union's founding values

Published: 24th January 2022 Last updated: 24th January 2022

Unless the EU’s asylum policies will be reformed to meet the requirements of solidarity between Member States, we will see a perpetuation of recurrent crises, and in the longer term potential disintegration due to the erosion of the EU’s common values. That is what Lukasz Dziedzic concludes from his PhD research, which he will defend at Tilburg University on February 4th 2022.

Solidarity has been a key concept accompanying the manifold crises the EU has been facing over the past years. From the euro crisis, over the so-called refugee crisis, up to the recent Covid-19 crisis, solidarity has been a buzzword in political and media discourses as well as in academia. However, there is a lack of a clear conceptual analysis of its (ab-)uses in the European Union. Lukasz Dziedzic aimed to close this gap, while focusing on the central case study of asylum. He combined conceptual analysis, drawing on debates in philosophy, sociology and political science, with legal-doctrinal analysis.

Group solidarity

Dziedzic’ research shows two main conceptualizations of solidarity at play in the EU. Key is the concept of group solidarity, which requires EU Member States to act in the collective interest of the Union as a whole, rather than their own national self-interests, based on a set of common values as defined in the Treaties. It calls on Member States to cooperate instead of free riding; to distribute the benefits and burdens of cooperation fairly; to mutually trust each other when loyally performing their respective duties; and to support other Member States when needed.

Critical solidarity

When group solidarity is absent, critical solidarity as a corrective becomes key. Citizens, activists, scholars etc. can engage in critical solidarity to contest a mismatch in policy and practice and highlight the need for change – for example if there is a mismatch between the Union’s principles of providing fair and humane conditions for asylum seekers and the practice of letting them behind in camps at the EU’s external borders indeterminately.

Policy reform and vision

In the case of the asylum policy the options to resolve the problems are on the table, but the current reform proposals as formulated in the EU's New Pact on Migration and Asylum do not include them, Dziedzic points out. Instead, they half-heartedly appease states that do not want to take in any refugees at all by allowing them to contribute through border control resources and the return of failed asylum seekers instead. In addition, overburdened states at the external borders of the EU are offered an overly complex and bureaucratic relocation mechanism (euphemistically called the "solidarity mechanism") that has already in a similar form failed in the past.

Erosion of values

Unless the EU's asylum policies will be reformed to meet the requirements of group solidarity, we will see a perpetuation of the recurrent crises, and in the longer term potential disintegration due to erosion of the EU's value basis, Dziedzic concludes. What is missing, is the political visionary required to move beyond perpetual crises towards a truly Common European Asylum System. “The risk of seeking pragmatic consensus by accommodating positions going against core EU values is that it might ultimately do more harm than good by undermining the values founding the EU – its ethos.”

PhD Defense

Lukasz Dziedzic will defend his PhD thesis on Friday 4 February 2022, 10 a.m., at Tilburg University. Title thesis: Solidarity and Critique in the European Union - A Case Study of Asylum. Supervisors: Prof. H.K. Lindahl, Prof. C.R.J.J. Rijken. The defense can be attended by means of a livestream.

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