On 20 April, LIBSEEN (The Liberal South East European Network) organised an online meeting on Liberal responses to COVID-19. The meeting brought together over 30 representatives from liberal sister parties from south-eastern Europe, as well as ALDE Party, FNF, ELF, VVD and D66, to discuss and exchange views, experiences and ideas related to the on-going pandemic.
Moderated by Roman Jakič, Chair of LIBSEEN, ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen gave a welcome speech in which he highlighted the importance of staying connected, adding that he hopes to see everyone soon again in 'real life': “It’s important to stay connected to our Balkan partners even in these times of crisis.”
ALDE Party Vice-President Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP gave an updated from the Renew Europe Group on the EU enlargement policy ahead of the planned Zagreb summit in June. Kyuchyuk also talked about the EU assistance to Western Balkan countries during the pandemic as well as the continued need for pan-European solidarity in dealing with the crisis.
Vesna Pusić, former LIBSEEN Chair and a member of Croatian Parliament, gave a stark warning about the state of democracies in the current COVID-19 crisis, especially when it comes to the growing number of restrictions to personal liberties and the suspension of democratic processes: “People accept it mostly because they are scared and disoriented, and also because some of these measures are needed and justified in times of extreme crisis. However, these measures start appearing without an expiration date, without parliamentary oversight and without accountability.”
The discussions and inputs from all participants resulted in three key recommendations for the EU to handle the on-going situation:
1) European solidarity in managing the crisis, including the Western Balkans
2) A well-coordinated exit from the restrictive measures
3) Keeping an eye on and safeguarding liberal and democratic values as well as personal liberties in countries both inside and outside the EU
LIBSEEN Chair Roman Jakič concluded the meeting in powerful words: “There is no doubt that the coronavirus is a global emergency. There is also no doubt that governments will use this emergency to add to their powers. And some of them probably won’t give up their new powers once the threat is over. We are here to stop those authoritarian leaders who are successfully undermining acquired liberal democratic values.”
Thank you very much @romanjakic to host the virtual @LIBSEEN meeting. It’s important that we stay connected with our Balkan partners in times of crises. It's a pleasure to see you all in good health and hopefully we can soon meet in real life! 🇪🇺🤝 pic.twitter.com/z9HYKgXB78— Hans van Baalen (@hansvanbaalen) April 20, 2020