Sara Lagi, Professor of Political Thought, University of Turin, Italy.

Solidarity in Times of Pandemic.

My speech aims to stress what I think is one of the most remarkable and interesting aspects emerging from this time of global crisis, that is, the rediscovery of a sense of solidarity within the national community.

The coronavirus pandemic has been enormously impacting the European community, while again, unfortunately, showing the limits and structural weaknesses of a Union, which seems to be unable to act as such, in times of common challenges. I am thinking for example of the lack of a true European plan for facing the problem on a true European level.

On the contrary, if we look, for example, to single nations and more precisely to my country – Italy (although what I am going to say is true for sure for many other countries) – acts of reciprocal solidarity have frequently been seen. From voluntary associations providing free assistance to people with specific handicaps to companies producing extremely cheap or even free products useful in this pandemic, like, for example, protective masks. From free online services giving psychological assistance to elderly people, to donations to the Italian Civil Protection Force. From retired doctors and nurses who freely decided to go to the most infectious North-Italian regions to help their colleagues, risking their own lives, to regional and local food collection in favor of the poorest. From librarians dropping books and newspapers on the doorsteps of homes to volunteers who brought medicines directly to people’s homes. Most of these actions have involved both small towns and big cities, creating a network of solidarity from local to national level.

In my opinion, all these gestures assume the principle of cooperation, the consciousness of belonging to a same community and care for one another. In a word, they assume the principle of mutual solidarity, which has been particularly evident and strong chiefly toward the weakest and most marginalized members and social groups. Instead of declarations of principle and empty statements, concrete acts and gestures of solidarity have emerged. In this time of medical emergency, the national community has showed its best and noblest “face”, chiefly because the aforementioned initiatives have involved the poor and those most exposed to the negative social and economic effects of the pandemic, including immigrants. It is a double challenge: the first is to think how to reactivate and implement such concrete and active solidarity in times of “normality” and the second, the most difficult, is to understand how to develop and implement it on a European level, implying not so much the creation of true supranational solidarity – which however remains the long-term objective – but in the first instance, the creation of a true and broad solidarity between the European member-states.