Using examples from her own home, Corfu, Vera Koronaki describes the reasons why we need solidarity, both in Europe as well as beyond, and the steps that we can take to achieve it.
Origins of solidarity
The term solidarity owes its existence to the current weakness of welfare society. In a welfare society a decent standard of living is taken for granted by all people regardless of their abilities or disabilities. In other words, fair taxation and wise management of the state’s revenues are the conditions which will guarantee the needs of certain groups of people, who for various reasons cannot support themselves.
The term solidarity owes its existence, furthermore, to the lack of democracy and peace. In a peaceful, democratic world everybody can be creative and can give and receive on equal terms. All this sounds utopian: our world is far from perfect and neither are the centers of authority. As a result, the most sensitive of us must care for those who are not as lucky, as healthy or as rich as we are and this is where solidarity comes in.
Solidarity in practice
Taking all this into consideration, I would say that movements for solidarity should be effective and fruitful and, as people’s needs are permanent, not merely serve as temporary relief. This can be illustrated with an example from our island: Corfu is a stopover station for immigrants and refugees who wish to travel to other European countries. Unfortunately, the Dublin II treaty prevents these poor people from travelling to their destination and forces them either to stay in Greece or return to their countries. As neither the former nor the latter is possible, they are trapped, homeless and jobless, in a stalemate. Some kind-hearted ladies cook for them three or four times a week, other kind people would offer them some fruit and drinks but these people need food every day.
Moreover, some countries in southern Europe are afflicted by austerity measures imposed by the troika and more and more people are unable to satisfy their basic needs. The consequences are often tragic as a number of people decide to put an end to their misery by committing suicide. In these countries the people who are not that poor care for the people in need and are showing solidarity by organising soup kitchens or offering clothes and other goods. Every kind of help is certainly welcome but it would be more effective if social entities pressed governments to take measures to strengthen the local economy by encouraging investments which would create new jobs.
How can the people of northern Europe show their solidarity?
On the other hand the more fortunate people of northern Europe can (while their fortune lasts) show their solidarity with their fellow Europeans by urging their governments to react to the unpopular policies of the EU/IMF/ECB troika which have turned people into slaves in their own countries. Going even further, if the governments are not responsive to their pleas, the democratic citizens of the developed European countries should send them a strong message by voting against their policies. Crucial issues, such as the recession and immigration should be urgently tackled, aiming at the root of the problem.
Where do we go from here?
The next step of effective solidarity would be to tackle the root of the emigration problem by making a persistent effort to eliminate the conditions which drive people from Asia and Africa to leave their homes. Europeans have their share of responsibility for the exploitation of the wealth of these countries, for the terrible working conditions and child labour and for the wars that devastate these places. A film star visiting a hospital for child amputees is not enough; it does not solve the problem and even perpetuates it.
In my opinion the gradual steps that we Europeans should take to make the world a better place are the following: promoting awareness of what is really happening to the less fortunate peoples on our planet, fostering sympathy for their predicament and ensuring persistent efforts to urge politicians to improve the standard of living in developing countries. We, as Greens, dream of a Europe of the people, not a Europe of markets. In the age of globalisation we cannot see ourselves as isolated from the rest of the world; we should strive for a better Europe in a better world where peace and justice prevail, a world in which solidarity as it currently exists will be a thing of the past!