European States Respond to the Coronavirus Crisis: Implications for the Future of Liberal Democracy?
Democracy has also been infected by the coronavirus.
All normal, everyday features of a healthy democracy are suffering from the pandemic, as checks on governments weaken due to the all-out fightback…..
As public life is pushed back all over Europe to slow the spread of the virus, worries are on the rise over what extent the measures, if not proportionate and time-limited, can infringe fundamental rights and the rule of law.
Michal Simecka, a Slovak MEP from the liberal Renew group told EUobserver it is “legitimate, proportionate and understandable that governments are invoking emergency measures, when every hour counts”.
But Simecka warned of two possible threats in the longer term.
“It is a perfect pretext for a politicians to centralise power,” he said.
The other threat is whether the measures will be rolled back in time as the outbreak lets up.
“These kind of extraordinary powers tend to be sticky. When politicians have these powers they might be reluctant to go back to the messy, longer democratic processes. We must be vigilant,” Simecka said – in a call from Bratislava…..
But the nervousness about the potential of the new measures is rife.
“We are seeing a number of measures dismantling the checks and balances that guarantee the continuity of democracy,” Sergio Carrera of the Centre for European Policy Studies told EUobserver.
Carrera said the current crisis touches upon so many aspects of citizens’ rights – freedom of assembly, privacy, right to move within the country and the EU, a right to family life – that the policy responses’ effects on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights need to be closely followed, so that they don’t go too far.
Crises, whether regarding terrorism, migration or health, don’t mean that “everything goes,” he warned.
“One can agree that it is a very difficult issue for governments to deal with, but I believe it is also a question of legitimacy not to panic, and just work with what we have and the checks and balances we have,” he said…..
For the rest of the article, see EUObserver: