How governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic are unduly restricting civic space and freedoms across the EU

To protect public health, governments have adopted measures that radically change the way we live. Temporary restrictions on certain freedoms may be necessary to save lives and protect at-risk groups. But many governments have adopted problematic measures in the name of protecting public health. In some cases, government measures simply go further than is necessary. In other cases, governments are deliberately taking advantage of COVID-19 to undermine individual freedoms and democracy in ways that actually endanger public health. In particular, they imposed unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the right to protest, free speech, access to information and freedom of association that allow the public to participate in decision-making. These rights are essential as they provide citizens with the tools they need to ensure that their governments act in their best interests when navigating crises, whether they be crises of health or of the climate.

Whilst not claiming to be exhaustive, this report records some of the most striking developments in EU countries. It exposes how governments’ responses to the pandemic have led to unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on civic space and freedoms, unduly hampering activism and democratic participation.

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