POLICY BRIEF: EU, emergency powers and civic space

Publication by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) on 06/12/2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has put democracy and rule of law under strain worldwide and the European Union (EU) is no exception. Restrictive measures exacerbated existing challenges affecting civic space and civil society actors. The EU has attempted to assess and report on the state of the rule of law across Member States through the EU Rule of Law Review Cycle, carried out for the first time in 2020.

ECNL has looked into how the EU Rule of Law reporting mechanism could better serve the need to assess the impact on civic space and freedoms of emergency measures adopted in responses to crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this policy brief, building on data and research drawing from the ECNL-ICNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker of government emergency measures, launched in 2020, ECNL critically assesses the approach of the Commission to date. The paper illustrates the main findings of our analysis and formulates a series of targeted recommendations addressed to the Commission, with a view to inform and hopefully prompt improvements for the forthcoming Review Cycles.

ECNL respectfully calls on the EU Commission to review the methodology underpinning the Review Cycle and embed a structured monitoring and reporting approach on the use and impact of emergency powers, in particular as regards civic space and freedoms, on the basis of the following key recommendations:

  • Expand the scope of monitoring to civic space;
  • Shift from a descriptive to an analytical approach;
  • Formulate targeted country-specific recommendations;
  • Enhance synergies with international and regional bodies;
  • Strengthen the involvement of and support to civil society actors.

Read here the policy brief.