Unity in Adversity? Tracking Solidarity and Burden-Sharing between European Member States during the First Wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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This paper offers an assessment of EU solidarity in pandemic response during the first wave of the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on international solidarity actions and collective burden-sharing arrangements by European Union Member States (EUMS). As there already exists a widely referenced measure of pandemic-related actions of solidarity between EUMS, the paper sets out by examining the European Solidarity Tracker (EST) dataset, assessing both, the data therein and the concept and categories constituting its framework. The paper argues for a fundamental re-assessment of the EST data based on this, identifying multiple types of items therein that should not be considered manifestations of meaningful inter-EUMS solidarity as such. Gaps in the EST’s concept of solidarity are also identified, pointing at its failure to capture important aspects and instances of EU solidarity. Offering further support for an expanded approach, the paper briefly reviews the literature on solidarity and international burden-sharing. This is followed by an overview and discussion of EU-wide as well as “EU-exceeding” burden-sharing actions in the period concerned, allowing reflection on how the aggregate effective value of EU solidarity — that is, the value of the totality of both solidarity actions by individual EUMS and collective burden-sharing arrangements by the community of EUMS — ought to be assessed, including by applying a “mind-the-gap” logic of aggregation. That these considerations are often missing from assessments of solidarity is posited as having problematic implications for the current pandemic response.

European Union, pandemic, solidarity measures, burden-sharing, international aid