No Quarantine for Democracy!
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The coronavirus pandemic calls for an urgent and ambitious response. Measures have to be taken to save lives and protect incomes and the economy. But: Democracy must also be protected during the Corona pandemic! All emergency measures taken by governments need to respect democratic procedures, transparency and the rule of law. Particularly, when severe limitations to basic freedoms are imposed, this needs to be done by the broadest possible democratic majorities and not against the opposition.
Unfortunately, some measures taken by governments have nothing to do with fighting against the virus. They rather fight critics, the opposition or free speech. Right wing and populist governments in Europe have used the fight against Corona as a smoke screen. They push for laws and regulations that suspend democratically elected parliaments. That silences the opposition and suspends fundamental human rights like media freedom. There is a serious danger that emergency decisions will transform liberal democracies into autocratic systems.
Europe must stop this now!
The worse examples posing a threat to democracy and the rule of law:
- Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán is imposing a state of emergency that suspends parliament indefinitely. This allows him to govern by decree and to suspend elections. The law also punishes “fake news” and “fear mongering” on Corona with up to 5 years in prison - a tool that might well be used against critical journalists. Orban’s two-third-majority adopted this on Monday 30th March.
- When the Polish Government announced a state of "epidemic threat", all but the government candidate suspended their campaigns for the upcoming presidential election. The Government refuses to postpone the elections. The incumbent President Duda is using the situation to secure an advantage for himself. The Government also changed the electoral law less than six months before the elections, violating the Polish constitution.
Civil Society activists have criticized the above mentioned measures fiercely as they would lead to authoritarian political systems. In Hungary there is a serious fear of Viktor Orbán trying to turn the country into a dictatorship.
In light of these developments we demand, that:
- All EU Member States’ emergency measures must have an end date, to be prolonged if necessary. Measures must allow journalists and parliaments to exercise their democratic control functions.
- The EU Commission must take a clear stance against the misuse of the coronavirus crisis for power grabs by authoritarian governments.
- With parliamentary control on government actions in Hungary suspended, the EU Commission should stop paying EU funds to the government in Budapest. EU funds should instead be distributed directly by the Commission.
- Civil Society Organizations and the press must not be restricted in their work. They are an essential part of our democratic societies and should be allowed to continue their work.
Daniel Freund, MEP (German Green)
Lara Wolters, MEP (Dutch Social-Democrat)
Guy Verhofstadt, MEP (Belgian Liberal)
Petri Sarvamaa, MEP (Finnish Christian-Democrat)
Ramona Strugariu, MEP (Romanian Liberal)
Mikuláš Peksa, MEP (Czech Pirate)
Terry Reintke, MEP (German Green)
Stelios Kouloglou, MEP (Greek Left)
Moritz Körner, MEP (German Liberal)
Pascal Durand, MEP (French Liberal)
Gabriele Bischoff, MEP (German Social-Democrat)
Sergey Lagodinsky, MEP (German Green)
Tiemo Wölken, MEP (German Social-Democrat)
Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, MEP (German Green)
Franziska Brantner, MP (German Green)
Helmut Scholz, MEP (German Left)
Margarida da Silva, Corporate Europe Observatory
Alberto Alemanno, Jean Monnet Professor, HEC Paris
Helen Darbishire, Access Info Europe
Jamila Schäfer, Deputy Party Leader German Greens
Domenèc Ruiz Devesa, MEP (Spanish Social Democrats)
Fabio Massimo Castaldo, MEP (Italien Five Stars)
Niklas Nienass, MEP (German Green)
Patrick Breyer, MEP (German Pirate)
Heidi Hautala, MEP (Finnish Green)
Imke Dierßen, LobbyControl
Transparency International EU
Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, MEP (Slovakian right-conservative)
Sandro Gozi, President of the Union of European Federalists / MEP (French Renew group)
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino - Kyrgyzstan”
Civil Rights Defenders
Free Press Unlimited
Center for Civil Liberties
Human Rights House Zagreb
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
Centre for Peace Studies Zagreb
Judith Sargentini, ex-MEP (Dutch Greens)
Inge Gräßle, ex-MEP (German Christian-Democrats)
Malgorzata Tracz - MP and Co-chair of the polish Greens
Wojciech Kubalewski - Co-chair of the polish Greens
Ulszula Zielińska - MP (Polish Greens)
Tomasz Aniśko - MP (Polish Greens)
DRA (German-Russian Exchange, Berlin)
ZARA – Zivilcourage und Anti-Rassismus-Arbeit
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia
European Federation of Journalists
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