24 April 2020

EESC stresses: No lockdown for fundamental rights during the COVID-19 crisis!

EESC President and President of the EESC Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law call on respecting fundamental rights in the time of crisis. In their joint statement two presidents acknowledge that the response to the Covid-19 crisis has necessarily a negative impact on a number of fundamental rights. Freedom of movement, freedom of association and assembly have been restricted, right to privacy has been touched upon and so has been a range of other civil and political as well as economic and social rights.

Presidents in their statement reiterate the European values enshrined in the Art.2 of the Treaty on the European Union, which emerged from the painful experience of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes of the 20th century and speak strongly against the erosion of the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe.

They stress that “it is imperative that the crisis does not lead to unnecessary or excessive limitation of rights. Emergency powers must be exercised under the direct control of Parliament, while respecting the rule of law, and should not be extended beyond the duration of the crisis. Maintaining control mechanisms and checks and balances is absolutely crucial, in order to avoid sliding from an urgency response situation into a permanent state of demise of the rule of law”.

The statement explicitly mentions examples of Hungary and Poland, cases in which the doubts have been raised also by other institutions as the European Commission and the European Parliament. Particular concerns have been raised about the freedom of expression in Hungary, in the light of the amendment of the criminal code, which enacts up to five years of prison against persons found disseminating “any untrue fact or any misrepresented true fact”. This is worrisome as the freedom of expression and media freedom are particularly important in the time of crisis, as independent media constitute a much-needed watchdog to maintain trust and confidence within society, and to fight against disinformation.

Presidents expressed their full support to the European Commission´s initiative to monitor the emergency measures and their application, verifying whether new laws are conforming to the Treaties, as well as to draw decisive consequences from infringements, using all legal and financial instruments at disposal.

The same words of support were echoed by PA in our open letter  to the EU policy makers earlier this month, in which we also called for the protection of the European core values such as democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights throughout the Covid-19 emergency situation and its recovery phase.

Furthermore, the EESC Group on Fundamental Right and the Rule of Law committed to the continuous monitoring of the situation, concerned that the Covid-19 responses remain necessary, proportionate and temporary in nature and do not exacerbate already existing challenges to fundamental rights and the rule of law in the EU.


Provided by the PA Team