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Do Europeans know how to “do” solidarity?

“Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” Was this well-known passage from the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950 premonitory, idealistic or presumptuous?

We have to admit, 71 years later, that Europeans generally now have no choice but to “do” solidarity among themselves. Citizens expect it, and governments have an interest in it. If initial reactions are and always will be national, and selfish - even in crises, very quickly, in the main, solidarity is being organised in an increasingly natural way.

And so, Covid, which initially shook the foundations of the European Union, as it witnessed the return of border controls, gave rise to unexpected acts of solidarity. First, there were transfers of patients, then exchanges of personnel, equipment and vaccines, which finally and naturally led the Member States to pooling their advance-purchases of the valuable doses of vaccine. Solidarity with Africa too, since the Covax mechanism, which has already supplied 50 million vaccines to countries that cannot produce them, is mainly being financed and supplied by Europeans.

Many mechanisms and examples show a very concrete and increasingly natural European solidarity. The mutual defence clause, solidarity in case of disaster, shared civil protection, etc and the impressive European recovery plan, which is more generous with those most affected, are all striking proof of this.

On the other hand, there is one area that still further effort - that of foreign and security policy.

Whilst Greece is being challenged by the provocative attitude of Turkey, which, in defiance of international law, is trying to impose its designs in the Aegean Sea, few countries are spontaneously and resolutely coming to its side with some even trying by all means possible to avoid making a statement. Only France is responding as if by reflex. It is in its nature. And when one of its ships is scandalously attacked by this same NATO member, only a few Member States express their solidarity.

These are breaches of the rules and the spirit of the treaties. On the international scene, Europeans must learn to show solidarity, spontaneously and without restriction. This is the condition of their power. And it is by showing it that peace and the peaceful resolution of disputes can be guaranteed.

It has taken far too long for European diplomacy to adopt a firm attitude towards this provocative neighbour, another proponent of the political fait accompli. Moreover, the launch of joint sanctions brought it back to its senses.

Robert Schuman was right: de facto solidarity has been born of a long history of cooperation between Europeans, which has continued to grow stronger. It remains for our States to assume, organise and assert this solidarity with even greater strength vis-à-vis the rest of the world.