BCSDN: COVID-19 – The Effects to and the Impact of Civil Society in the Balkan Region

Report published by Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN) – updated on 29 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a calamity that will likely shake up institutions and societies permanently. Causing much more than a health crisis, the new coronavirus has led to grave economic and social disruptions, but also a heightened crisis of democracy, which is becoming more and more visible in the Balkan region. To fight the pandemic, which is testing the health and legal systems of all countries but also the democratic capacities of institutions, states are forced to take the strictest measures to limit the further spread of the disease, even restricting some of the guaranteed human rights, having discretionary powers under the state of emergency.

In these unprecedented times, states often take steps that human rights activists see as curtailing civil liberties, such as increased surveillance, curfews, restrictions on gatherings, or limiting freedom of expression. It is necessary that the measures undertaken in such a situation are proportionate to the threat they are addressing and are in accordance with national constitutions and international standards and conventions. Addressing the threat must be done in accordance with the principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, and thus, it must include a specified time limit and parliamentary oversight. Yet, measures enacted by governments in the Balkans have not necessarily passed this test, as they prevent citizens to fully take part in civil society.

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