No quarantine for democracy

In the last few weeks, our democracies have been put under further pressure, our freedoms and civil liberties have been reduced in order to tackle this crisis. Mass surveillance has been developed and media freedom has been reduced to name a few.The risk is that those exceptional and temporary measures will never be fullylifted, becoming, de facto, normal and permanent laws. Counter-powers, fundamental in liberal democracies, including independent juridical systems, individual rights, parliamentary scrutiny, media freedom, media pluralism and fully functioning independent controls of public spending have been reduced, sometimes shut down. To ensure the respect of the rule of law in Member States, we should fully support the work of already existing independent institutions. At the same time, the EU should also establish and put conditions to the distribution of EU funds. With the release of these much needed new emergency funds, it is crucial to strengthen transparency, accountability and good governance through control mechanisms to avoid corruption and the misuse of EU and national public funds. The COVID-19 outbreak should not be used as a new opportunity to reduce our fundamental freedoms or to diminish regional competences and recentralise states. There should be no quarantine forDemocracy! It is time to strengthen our democracies and civil rights by “going back to the normal” but also by adopting new legislation protecting minorities and fundamental rights. Democracy is about the duty of the majority to protect the rights of the minorities. It is time for us to get back on track and resume our journey towards a more democratic society.

This crisis has shaken the trust of many citizens and given rise to populism and euro critics. All over the EU, Euroscepticism has risen with the onset of the current crisis. It is the immediate result of a feeling of being left alone. We need – now more than ever– to include, the local and regional authorities, the trade-unions and the civil society in the policy-making process. Moreover, a debate on the future of the EU is urgently needed. We need to critically evaluate the EU’s reaction to this crisis and translate the desire of its people for solidarity, a more participative and lively democracy and “moreEurope” into concrete political processes. The Conference on the Future of the EU is the ideal forum for this debate. The Conference needs to start as the first opportunity and has to come forward with clear proposals, including by engaging directly with citizens, to profoundly reform the European Union and making it more effective, united, democratic, sovereign and resilient. Citizens must be fully involved in all recovery measures discussed and adopted within the EU. To allow for such a citizen driven process we must not waste any of the remaining time. and start preparing now.