National responses to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a series of state of emergencies being declared and restrictive measures adopted in almost all EU countries. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the European Parliament has been monitoring the impact of Covid-19 measures on democracy, fundamental rights and rule of law. Today, MEPs in the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs are voting on a resolution outlining their main concerns with recommendations that serve as a guide to member states ahead of any future emergency measures.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, S&D chair of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee and rapporteur, said:
“Member states have adopted a vast number of different emergency measures, at different times and with different impacts, as way of responding to the Covid-19 outbreak. Whether it is the right to healthcare, the right to privacy and data protection, the right to equality before the law, non-discrimination or freedom of expression and information, there are few aspects of our daily lives that have not been affected. The piecemeal approach from national governments has resulted in an EU patchwork of responses that has left us in unchartered territory. But the EU’s principles of democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law are the thread that binds us together. That is why we have said that all measures in response to the pandemic must be proportionate, necessary and only temporary in nature. Our message is that even in times of crisis, there is no room for trade-offs when it comes to democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. We have to uphold our shared values and guarantee proper parliamentary and judicial scrutiny at all times. As future measures are taken with further waves of the pandemic, the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee will continue to monitor the situation in all member states.”
Katarina Barley, S&D member of the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group and shadow rapporteur, said:
“In some EU countries, democratic checks and balances have been severely weakened, and a great number of fundamental rights drastically restricted as a result of the measures governments have been taking in the name of limiting the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group in the European Parliament has been monitoring the situation in all EU countries. We represent all EU citizens and we have a duty to make sure that any exceptional powers and restrictions do not go beyond what is required to stop the spread of the virus. We saw measures to curb free speech and limit parliamentary scrutiny and others that fell wide of the mark of what is expected in free and fair elections. Today’s report is another reminder that, regardless of the exceptional circumstances, there are always legally binding international standards to ensure democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law are upheld.”