On 14 May, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová joined a debate hosted by Bruegel and Financial Times to discuss how democratic values can be upheld while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Other topics, such as the rule of law and freedom of speech in EU Member States, the Article 7 procedure, free and fair elections and data privacy, were also touched upon.
In her intervention, Jourová highlighted the importance of safeguarding EU values – such as free and fair elections, freedom of speech and the rule of law – during times of crisis and stressed that all Member States must always respect these values. She expressed concern on the recent developments in Hungary and Poland and reminded that the European Commission is monitoring the measures adopted by both countries in order to assess how the rule of law and democracy are respected.
“This emergency time is a stress test. For health, for economy, but also for democracy. I hope that we will survive it, that democracy will survive, and that we will come back to the old normal and we will continue also with dialogue,” she said.
Democracy is needed at all levels, Jourová said and reminded that the EU will launch the Conference on the Future of Europe as a tool to reinforce democracy and promote dialogue with the citizens.
Jourová also noted that while the European Commission has a number of tools – like the infringement procedure or the procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union – to ensure these core values are respected, the EU needs to do more. In this context, Jourová has already proposed that EU funds could be connected to the respect of rule of law.
Using technology, including the development of contact tracing apps, can be beneficial to the society in the post-corona world in particular, Jourová noted, but national and European rules must always be upheld. She added that a report on the status of GDPR in Europe will be published next month.
“In times of corona, the constitutions cannot be switched off. Also, GDPR cannot be switched off,” she added.
1⃣/3⃣ We are in a hot moment of EU budget negotiations for the next seven years. I believe the conditionality of rule of law would be fair and necessary with regard to tax payers.— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) May 14, 2020
Thank you @Bruegel_org @FinancialTimes @Mikepeeljourno @MLEurope for having this debate. pic.twitter.com/gSFZ3QNY7E