The European Commission regards intra-European mobility as a way to increase support among citizens for the European integration project. The underlying idea is that Europeans who go and live in a different European country to work, to study or for family reasons will become more European and thus support the European project ‘from the bottom up’. But is this really so? Researchers linked to the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) investigated.
In an article published this week in the renowned journal European Union Politics, Christof van Mol, Helga de Valk and Leo van Wissen investigated whether people in European bi-national relationships in the Netherlands feel more European than those in uni-national (Dutch) couples. Their main point of interest was whether this had translated into a higher degree of European solidarity. The underlying idea was that such daily interaction between people with a different European identity should lead to a greater European feeling. The Dutch questionnaire was sent to 898 couples, some of them in Belgium, Spain and Switzerland as well as the Netherlands.
‘What our research clearly shows is that people in an international relationship do indeed feel more European’, explains Van Mol. The researchers also investigated the effects of the ‘European feeling’ on people’s behaviour. Does a greater European feeling translate into more solidarity with other European countries in times of crisis? Given the current context, with discussions about a possible Grexit, this is a relevant question. The researchers asked people in uni-national and bi-national relationships whether they would be willing to donate part of their salary if a catastrophic natural disaster took place in a different European country. De Valk: ‘The focus on a natural disaster was deliberate because this relies more on emotional solidarity than economic crises such as that in Greece. In cases like that people can blame the Greeks themselves and thus display less solidarity.’ The results of the researchers clearly show that the ‘European feeling’ does not translate into more solidarity with other Europeans. Van Wissen: ‘We couldn’t find any differences between people in uni-national and those in bi-national couples; neither group was particularly willing to donate a significant part of their salary to help Europeans in a different country when necessary.’
The results thus clearly show that a European society ‘from the bottom up’, in which people show solidarity with each other when really necessary, will remain a utopia for the time being.
Christof van Mol (NIDI): mol nidi.nl of 0031 (0)70 3565254.
Article: Van Mol, C., de Valk, H.A.G. & van Wissen, L. (2015) Falling in love with(in) Europe: European bi-national love relationships, European identification and transnational solidarity. European Union Politics.
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