13 May, 2020

Reynders: rule of law must be upheld, even in times of crisis

On 12 May, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reyndersparticipated in an online debate hosted by the European think-tank Friends of Europe.

The debate focused on the rule of law in times of crisis, also covering topics such as emergency measures in EU member states, the role of the private sector, data privacy and tracing apps. The digital and green transitions were also discussed.

In his intervention, Reynders highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant shock to our system and that emergency measures limiting the fundamental rights of the citizens are needed. However, he reminded that the measures must always be necessary, proportionate, limited in time, and in line with European common values and the rule of law.

In this context, Reynders stated that the European Commission has established a monitoring mechanism to follow up on the measures adopted by each member state and to determine whether these measures are in line with European values. He added that the European Commission has several tools – such as monitoring, application of infringement procedures, political pressure to express concern, and the capacity to ask the European Court of Justice – to ensure that the rule of law is respected during the crisis, and announced that the first-ever annual report on rule of law will be published in autumn 2020, with follow-up debates at the national level.

At the end, the best pressure will come from real debate at the national level. […] In the national parliaments with civil society because it is the best way to push pressure for a full respect of the rule of law, as a real culture of the rule of law,” he added.

Furthermore, Reynders emphasised that in the post-corona world, Europe needs to be a leading global actor, therefore, the digital and green transitions need to be at the core of the recovery plans. He added that the use of contact tracing applications is beneficiary to stop the spread of the virus and better coordinate when opening the borders in the Schengen area, but such apps must comply with the GDPR rules and the EU toolbox published by the European Commission at the end of April.

We were one of the only places in the world – with others of course – to enter in the crisis with a democracy and with a respect for our values. And, we need to go out the crisis with the same democracy and with the same capacity to protect the values,” he underlined. 

Watch a recording of the debate below

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