FRA: coronavirus pandemic in the EU ― fundamental rights implications

The EU Fundamental Rights Agency released its first report monitoring the implication for fundamental rights in the EU amid the Coronavirus crisis.

The report, published in April 2020, is available here for download

Key Findings

The outbreak of COVID-19 affects people’s daily life in the 27 EU Member States. As the number of infected people in the EU territory began to mount rapidly in February and March, governments put in place a raft of measures – often introduced in a period of only a few days – in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Many of these measures reflect how, in exceptional emergency situations, the urgent need to save lives – itself a core fundamental rights obligation – justifies restrictions on other rights, such as the freedom of movement and of assembly.

International human rights law allows for the limitation of certain rights, especially when addressing a major health crisis. Moreover, states can also introduce emergency laws when exceptional circumstances arise. These laws can derogate from some human rights but they need to be in force for a limited time and in a supervised manner. States need to notify formally the derogation, which needs to be prescribed by law, proportionate and necessary. Once the exceptional circumstances are over, governments must lift the emergency measures.

This report outlines some of the measures EU Member States have put in place to protect public health during the Coronavirus pandemic. It highlights how they may affect fundamental rights; where specific Articles are mentioned in the report, these refer to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. It covers the period 1 February – 20 March 2020 and focuses on four interrelated issues:

— measures to contain COVID-19 and mitigate its impact in the areas of social life, education, work, and freedom of movement, as well as asylum and migration;

— the impact of the virus and efforts to limit its spread on particular groups in society; — incidents of xenophobic and racist discrimination, including hate crime;
— the spread of disinformation concerning the outbreak and the implications of related

containment measures on data protection and privacy.

The combination of the most widespread restrictions on daily life experienced in peacetime in modern Europe impact on all of us. They affect in particular certain, often already vulnerable, groups in society, with profound implications for the enjoyment of fundamental rights in the EU. The following paragraphs outline key findings from FRA’s data collection across the 27 EU Member States, illustrating the impact of the virus and the measures to contain it.

FRA will continue to examine the impact on fundamental rights of the virus and measures to contain it in follow-up reports in the coming months.