27 March 2020

Definitely Maybe: Europe’s moment of solidarity

This could be a strong European moment. A moment where people understand how important it is to have European friends who support each other, a moment when you share vital information, expertise and supplies, a moment when you realise how a fundamental crisis can be managed much better through cooperation and solidarity. The Corona crisis can lead to such a European moment. A moment in which individual Europeans realise how vital the European Union actually is, a Union which so often comes across as faraway, grey and technocratic but which is there when disaster strikes, almost like a good insurance.

But so far this has not been a European moment. National leaders have taken the initiative and do whatever it takes to protect their citizens against the virus. Their approaches might differ in terms of public health responses, but they are surprisingly consistent when it comes to protecting the national interest. Where is Europe? Where is the EU? I am worried about the implications of this for the future of Europe.

Talking to friends in Italy who feel neglected by Europe, seeing grand national speeches by Prime Ministers, Presidents and Chancellors who find the right words while European politicians seem on mute, seeing Chinese and Russian solidarity airplanes landing in Italy with much needed medical supply and staff, I feel frustrated. Might this be Europe’s titanic moment?

I do hope not. There is too much at stake, well beyond the current crisis. Over the last 75 years Europe has managed to reinvent itself as a collaborative power, a sharing society of some sort, and this has served us Europeans, and the rest of the world, well. Remember, we used to be the continent which spread wars, hatred and colonisation. We cannot afford a rollback. Europe is too big to fail. We need to do whatever it takes to keep the sentiment of European cooperation and solidarity intact.

And there is hope. Citizens reach out to each other, practice small and often imaginative human gestures of everyday solidarity. This unites us, across balconies, social networks, cities and countries. It is human hope and shared culture without much ado that makes us feel together and that is all worth while! This is the culture of solidarity we ought to grow out of this crisis. This is a European moment, a European moment of solidarity, a European moment of citizens.

At the European Cultural Foundation we have decided to bet on this moment and have set up a new Culture of Solidarity Fund to which we have dedicated a significant amount of our 2020 budget. This fund will support big and small initiatives which grow a European culture of Solidarity, support partners and grantees in a flexible manner in the redesign of their activities in response to the Coronacrisis, support new imaginative ways of sustaining people-to-people contacts and human interaction across European borders in times of travel restrictions and social distancing.

This can and must be a moment of European Philanthropy. This is the time that foundations in Europe should come together and collaborate for the benefit of everybody facing this enormous challenge and by uniting beyond borders and sectors.

If you are interested to share experiences, skills and/or resources, please let us know. Also, if you want to join our Culture of Solidarity Fund, please do. It’s open. We are just a Zoom call away.

More information on the Culture of Solidarity Fund here.


Illustration by Dan Perjovschi.


André Wilkens

Director, European Cultural Foundation