In the course of the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, governments in Europe and across the world have called for states of emergency and restricted individual freedoms of their citizens in order to #FlattenTheCurve. While many citizens support the governmental initiatives, concerns about their implications on the state of democracy are growing stronger. Some fear that the coronavirus crisis will end in a crisis of democracy. Worldwide, democratic standards have been challenged long before the pandemic started. First analyses show that the current health crisis speeds this tendency up. In particular, the erosion of civic freedoms for the sake of handling the global health crisis appears to accelerate. While most governmental measures seem to be appropriate, others provide the impression that the coronavirus crisis is used to further erode internal checks and balances. Just recently, the European Union (EU) has adopted new Council Conclusions on Democracy aiming to address this global tendency. While they mainly address the external dimension, internal threats to democracy are not to be neglected. What value has such a strategy in times of a global pandemic?
COVID-19 as a Threat to Civic Spaces Around the World
As countries across the globe are desperately trying to control the COVID-19 pandemic, a rapidly increasing number of governments have started to impose severe restrictions on core civic freedoms. Although restrictions are currently necessary to save lives and protect health care from overburdening, these emergency measures must be proportional and strictly limited in time. It is crucial to monitor how restrictions are implemented to prevent governments from using the current crisis to justify new constraints on civic spaces, which have already have been shrinking in many places during the last 15 years.