MEPs warn of risk of abuse of power through Covid-19 public emergencies

The European Parliament has warned that there was the risk of an abuse of power when member states called a state of a public health emergency in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and insisted that European values must continue to prevail.

MEPs adopted a resolution taking stock of the state of European democratic value in the midst of the pandemic by 496 votes to 138, with 49 abstentions. All 6 Maltese MEPs voted in favour.

In a debate which involved Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, almost all speakers expressed concerns about the rights of citizens and vulnerable groups in a number of EU countries where a state of emergency had been declared.

MEPs insisted that emergency powers must be necessary, proportional, time-limited and subject to democratic scrutiny. Additionally, they emphasised that restrictions on demonstrations should not be used to pass controversial measures, and that member states should safeguard the rights of all.

National governments should “not abuse emergency powers to pass legislation unrelated to the COVID-19 health emergency,” according to the EP.

“This pandemic is turning out to be the worst crisis in the history of the European Union. Nevertheless, the European Parliament is fulfilling its duty towards citizens by fighting for their rights and freedoms, especially where governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to attack EU values,” rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish MEP from the S&D group, said.

“The Commission and the member states must step up their efforts to uphold fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law during this crisis and ensure that governments uphold democratic principles in their measures.”