In February 2022, waking up dismayed by Russian’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Europeans rose up in solidarity. They opened doors to protect more than 4 million people fleeing the war and seeking protection in the EU. One and a half years later, the EU remains committed to support Ukraine.
In this year’s State of the European Union address, President von der Leyen pledged €50 billion for the next four years to help rebuild Ukraine. A recent Eurobarometer survey confirms that also public support for accepting displaced persons from Ukraine in the EU remains high, at 77% in September 2023.
In a new report, the JRC sheds light on the factors that contribute to shaping solidarity in the EU, in particular towards migrants. It explores the general concept of solidarity, the conditions and factors that induce empathic solidarity, and its different forms and levels of expression. The report also includes an analysis of the level of solidarity towards the persons displaced from Ukraine.
What shapes solidarity in the EU?
The report shows that Europeans’ willingness to show solidarity is linked to perceptions of fairness in several aspects of the refugee reception process. A fair distribution of the burden of hosting refugees can contribute to a higher level of acceptance of refugees by the host communities. Equal treatment of host populations and refugees, as well as a fair distribution of public resources, also play a role.
The report indicates that Europeans tend to have more positive attitudes towards migrants who are women or children, and who are perceived to be culturally and ethnically close to the European population. Behind these personal characteristics, Europeans are more willing to show solidarity towards refugees who are clearly vulnerable and in their eyes ‘deserve’ to be protected.
Leadership legitimacy, institutional support to individuals, inter-group contact, civil society initiatives and efficient communication are also central for reinforcing solidarity across society.
Fighting disinformation remains key
Russia’s war against Ukraine has acted as catalyst for disinformation. A large amount of false and misleading claims has been published concerning the displaced persons as well as the capacity of the EU or Member States to handle the situation.
This disinformation often makes use of the real challenges that Europe is facing, but distorts the messages and their tone to exacerbate existing fears and anxieties.
In disinformation narratives, the people fleeing Ukraine are portrayed as ungrateful, prone to violence, or parasitic, and more generally as threats to Europeans’ health, wealth and identity. Moreover, this disinformation aims to manipulate people’s perceptions about the EU’s capacity to manage the situation.
Although the public attitudes towards the persons displaced by the war remain generally mainly positive, the risk of disinformation distorting the public opinion remains high.
The JRC’s report suggests that fighting disinformation must go hand-in-hand with building and maintaining trust. For governments this means demonstrating accountability and transparency in decision-making, admitting mistakes when needed, and acknowledging and addressing public anxieties.
Efficient communication and investing in policies to address underlying sources of tension are also key to maintaining the high level of solidarity among the European population.
- Publication date
- 15 September 2023
- Joint Research Centre
- JRC portfolios
- Population dynamics and migration