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Love, Identity, and Solidarity in Europe

Copyright: alexskopje

Relationships are thought to be an important indication of integration. Since the beginning of the European project, political scientists have in fact suggested that the development of a European identity could be strengthened by marriages between two people from different European countries. It’s tricky to measure, though, so we’ve had only anecdotes until now. Our study offers figures [1]. We surveyed bi-national couples in the Netherlands – couples consisting of one Dutch national and one non-Dutch EU national – to determine to what extent they identified as European compared to their “uni-national” counterparts.


Source: Van Mol/De Valk/Van Wissen (2015) / EUMARR Survey


It turns out that bi-national relationships are indeed related to a stronger European identity. Figure 1a shows that on a scale of 0 to 10, non-Dutch EU na­tionals in bi-national relationships feel more European by 1.2 points (17.1%) as compared to Dutch individuals in a uni-national couple. This finding holds also when we control for possibly confounding factors, such as education: an OLS regression analysis shows that the relationship type alone explains over one full point of the identity difference. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the enhanced sense of Europeanness does not translate into a strong difference in individuals’ sense of transnational solidarity – the feeling that makes people willing to help other countries in the event of a natural disaster, for instance. Not only were scores much lower, there was also little difference between bi- and uni-national couples (Figure 1b). And in contrast to identity scores, little of the difference was explained by the relationship.

For the moment, we can conclude that while love enhances the development of a European identity, it does not necessarily drive people to act on it. Not yet at least.


Helga de Valk, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute / KNAW / UoG; Interface Demography, Free University Brussels, Belgium


[1] Van Mol, Christof, Helga AG de Valk and Leo van Wissen (2015). Falling in love with(in) Europe: European bi-national love relationships, European identification and transnational solidarity. European Union Politics 16(4): 469-489.