Is it only the health status of societies that is affected by the Covid-19 epidemic or is democracy in Europe also affected? The Centre for European Policy Studies, a leading non-governmental organization based in Brussels, is looking for an answer to this question. Commentary by Sofia Ruschak.
93% of the countries in Europe consider themselves democratic. But we know that democracy in some countries has been declining recently due to the influence of populist parties and some government actions. The Covid pandemic has strengthened these trends, said Sofia Ruschak. The measures that governments have had to take to deal with the pandemic – restricting the freedom of people, of citizens – is unprecedented, meaning the right of movement, the right of assembly, the right of expression. Parliaments have moved to a new way of working. They follow their internal procedures, but the big problem is decision making. Parliaments were simply informed of what was planned to curb the spread of the virus. There are gaps in the legislature and democratic procedures. There is a trend that is observed during crises, in general – namely, governments become too strong. The executive branch is at the centre of the events. This is sometimes necessary and this is the case with COVID. That is why governments, as in this crisis, often govern by decrees. Unlike the standard procedure, this procedure does not require a parliament. All rights are in the hands of the government. These are measures that are taken behind closed doors, not in a procedure in parliament. This may require extension of the state of emergency and is dangerous for democracy.