Emergency measures taken by public authorities in extraordinary circumstances should always be strictly proportionate, clearly limited in time and closely monitored. Addressing the EESC plenary on 23 February 2022, Christa Schweng, EESC President and Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, took a firm stand.

Referring to the COVID-19 crisis and the state of emergency declared by many EU Member States to protect public health, resulting in restrictions on several fundamental rights and freedoms, Ms Schweng said: "The pandemic is a stress test for our societies and for our democracies. From the perspective of fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy, the EESC felt it was essential to closely monitor the situation. We have particularly listened to civil society actors regarding the consequences, challenges, and exit strategies related to the crisis. The EU needs to come out of the COVID-19 crisis reinforcing its common values."

Ms Jourová underlined that the COVID-19 pandemic had forcefully illustrated how vital our fundamental rights and democratic values were for our daily lives and how they could not be taken for granted: "An important lesson from the health crisis has been that measures necessary to combat the pandemic should not be taken at the expense of protecting democratic values and fundamental rights. We need to be vigilant and uphold our fundamental rights and common values, which should be central to our response to COVID-19."

The EESC's position on the impact of COVID-19 on fundamental rights and the rule of law across the EU and the future of democracy, was outlined in the opinion presented by the EESC Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group, drafted by José Antonio Moreno Díaz and Cristian Pîrvulescu. In the document, adopted by the plenary, the Committee points out that the special measures to address the COVID-19 crisis should remain exceptional and time-limited, and should not go against the rule of law or endanger democracy, the separation of powers and the fundamental rights of European inhabitants. (mp)