The impact of COVID-19 on fundamental rights and the rule of law across the EU and the future of democracy (own-initiative opinion – FRRL)

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EMSK arvamus: The impact of COVID-19 on fundamental rights and the rule of law across the EU and the future of democracy (own-initiative opinion – FRRL)

Key points

  • The EESC expresses its deep concern regarding the way COVID-19 is impacting the life, safety, welfare and dignity of all of the people living in the EU and worldwide.
  • The response of the EU and the Member States must address the systemic vulnerabilities of Europe's health infrastructure. The EU should align its policies, strategies and programmes to pursue a fair and comprehensive recovery from the crisis, with a view to achieving upward convergence in medical, social, economic and democratic standards.
  • The EU is based on common European values which are non-negotiable under any circumstances. They cannot be forgotten when the EU and its Member States face an emergency and its fallout in terms of economic, social and educational challenges. While the response to the current crisis needs to be swift and warrants certain exceptional and time-limited measures, these cannot go against the rule of law and cannot endanger democracy, the separation of powers and the fundamental rights of European inhabitants.
  • In the context of the efforts made through the NextGenerationEU, the EESC reiterates its support for economic corrective measures with regard to Member States that commit serious and persistent violations of the values listed in Article 2.
  • The EU institutions and Member State governments should use the existing social and civic dialogue institutions to fully engage civil society organisations and the social partners.
  • Governments should clearly identify the legal basis for their measures. Rules and policies related to COVID-19 should be clear, coherent and consistent insofar as is possible, with the provision of information about them in a timely manner, the involvement and consultation of civil society, including social partners, with a view of developing rules and policies, and the inclusion of an evidence-based rationale.
  • Regular reporting to parliament by government ministers charged with introducing pandemic measures should be required. States should ensure access to justice by guaranteeing an independent judiciary and enabling online and remote work by the courts in addition to providing support for vulnerable litigants, witnesses or those subject to criminal or civil proceedings.
  • The EESC underlines the connection between protecting democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights and implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). The monitoring of the implementation of the EPSR Action Plan should take into consideration the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Supporting vulnerable populations should be a priority, in line with the principle of "leaving no one behind", and particular attention should be paid to vulnerable workers and the fulfilment of Principle 14 of the EPSR on minimum income.
  • The EESC believes that the European Democracy Action Plan should include a large-scale initiative to foster education on democracy and fundamental rights. The initiative should be inclusive and addressed to all citizens, with a special focus on young people.

 


Through this Own-Initiative Opinion proposed by its Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group, the EESC expresses its deep concern regarding the way COVID-19 has impacted the life, safety, welfare and dignity of all of the people living in the EU and worldwide. The EESC recalls that the EU is based on common European values which are non-negotiable under any circumstances. Therefore, 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. The EESC insists on the importance of checks and balances like parliaments, independent judiciaries, and civil society in ensuring balances responses. It calls for an inclusive recovery process leaving no one behind and fostering participation, democracy and the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.