The interdependence of European solidarity, European cohesion and a European public sphere

Jana Puglierin | 2020

Beyond the doom and gloom that has dominated media coverage of the EU in recent years, there is another story to tell: the story of a strong and resilient European cohesion, which has held Europeans together like a powerful glue during the past decade of crises. Based on several data projects of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Jana Puglierin sheds light on the interdependence of European solidarity, European cohesion and a European public sphere.


Despite the many crises the European Union has gone through in the past decades, European cohesion has remained remarkably strong. The data compiled by the author Jana Puglierin and her team at the ECFR illustrates that cohesion in the EU has always recovered and even grown in times of crisis and has enabled Europeans to show solidarity. In particular, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has released a stream of European solidarity since the earliest days of the crisis. The negative impression that many EU citizens had of EU crisis management is not fully justified: a dense network of mutual help and cooperation throughout Europe is blooming. 

If this crisis is to be used as an opportunity to build a broader European public sphere, there is an urgent need for a change in understanding Europe. A European public sphere is crucial for the emergence of a European identity beyond national borders. Without it, there is little basis for mutual assistance and solidarity. European solidarity and cohesion are not the only things that are linked: the existence of a European public sphere is both a precondition for and a consequence of solidarity and cohesion.

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About the data

The analysis in the policy paper is built on several data-based projects carried out by the European Council on Foreign Relations in 2020, namely the European Solidarity Tracker, the fourth edition of the European Cohesion Monitor as well as a pan-European poll on citizen perceptions of the coronavirus crisis conducted by the ECFR in April 2020.

The European Solidarity Tracker and the fourth edition of the European Cohesion Monitor can also be found online as an interactive form. Check them out below and see for yourself how cohesion and solidarity differ across Europe. The fourth edition of the EU cohesion monitor covers the years 2007 to 2019, just before Covid-19 reached the continent.

Looking for the data referenced in the PDF of the policy paper? Jump straight to the data you’re searching for:

Individual cohesion EU27

Structural cohesion EU27

1.1 Experience – Citizens of other EU countries

1.3 Experience – Visited another EU country

1.5 Experience – Press freedom

2.2. Engagement – Voters for anti-EU parties in EP elections

3.1 Attitudes – Trust in the European Union

3.4 Attitudes – Perception of European identity

3.6 Attitudes – Feeling of attachment to the EU

3.5 Attitudes – Satisfaction with democracy in the EU

3.6 Attitudes – Feeling of attachment to the EU


About the author

Dr. Jana Puglierin is a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and head of its Berlin Office. She also directs ECFR’s Rethink: Europe initiative, which explores and illustrates European cooperation in innovative ways through the EU Solidarity Tracker, the EU Cohesion Monitor and the EU Coalition Explorer. She has published widely on European affairs, foreign and security policy, and Germany‘s role in the EU. Her most recent paper is “The big engine that might: How France and Germany can build a geopolitical Europe”.

About the project

This paper was created in the context of “Daring New Spaces: Striving towards a European Public Sphere”, a project initiated by Das Progressive Zentrum in cooperation with the German Federal Foreign Office, the Stiftung Mercator, and with the expert support of European Council for Foreign Relations. Visit the project page to find out more.


Data: EU Cohesion Monitor

1.3 Experience – Visited another EU country

1.5 Experience – Press freedom

2.2. Engagement – Voters for anti-EU parties in EP elections

3.1 Attitudes – Trust in the European Union

3.4 Attitudes – Perception of European identity

3.5 Attitudes – Satisfaction with democracy in the EU

3.5 Attitudes – Satisfaction with democracy in the EU

3.5 Attitudes – Satisfaction with democracy in the EU

Individual cohesion EU27

Structural cohesion EU27