States of Emergency

The fifty days of the ‘COVID-19 and States of emergency’ Symposium covered the height of the global legal reaction to the pandemic, offering a snapshot of countries in collective crisis. It began with a call for a global conversation on the kind of legal norms which should govern the situation of worldwide pandemic. This final contribution aims to trace the central themes, questions and issues raised by the Symposium.

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The Rule of Law Stress Test: EU Member States’ Responses to COVID-19

By mid-March, all EU member states were in a state of emergency, whether they officially declared one or not. Across the EU many human rights were severely restricted, particularly the right to free movement. Not every state of emergency is the same, however. Some exceed what is foreseen in international human rights law.

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States of Emergency without Rule of Law: The Case of Venezuela

Nicolás Maduro, who still holds the presidency, declared a state of alarm on March 13, 2020, invoking the need to counter the pandemic. However, the corresponding decree not only contradicts the constitutional provisions for states of exception but is also being employed to impose abusive limitations on human rights, to aggravate political repression and persecution, to blur the seriousness of certain socio-economic problems, and to contain social protests. The absence of judicial and parliamentary controls that could counteract these excesses of power has resulted in an autocratic shift within a context that was already authoritarian.

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Slovakia: Change of Government under COVID-19 Emergency

The Slovak experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has been affected by the fact that the outbreak took place at the time of a change in government. The new government, because of its relative inexperience and populist tendencies, has committed mistakes, often amounting to an infringement of citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms, especially the freedom of movement.

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Romania in the Covid Era: Between Corona Crisis and Constitutional Crisis

In Romania, the sanitary crisis caused by the SARS-COV-2 pandemic started during an existing political crisis and overlapped, at a few crucial moments, with a constitutional crisis. The fact that 2020 is an electoral year had an important impact on the crisis management: on the one hand, the political conflicts increased, but, on the other hand, the fact that the power did not belong to the same political majority hindered potential abuses of one of the actors, especially of the President.

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Czechs and Balances – If the Epidemiological Situation Allows…

In the Czech Republic, the COVID-19 crisis has brought not only a general state of chaos but also a considerable shift of powers to the executive branch. The first shift, impairing the legislative branch, was triggered by the declaration of a state of emergency on 12 March 2020. The second shift, diminishing also the role of the judiciary, was caused by a ruling in which the Constitutional showed its unwillingness to interfere with the government’s steps.

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Fight Against Covid-19 in Serbia: Saving the Nation or Securing the Re-Election?

The Covid-19 epidemic outbreak in Serbia coincided with the beginning of the election campaign for both parliamentary and municipal elections. Soon, it became clear that what was at stake in the fight against Covid-19 was not so much saving the nation as securing the majority re-election of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, headed by its populist leader and President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić.

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State of Emergency in Estonia

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic the Estonian Government (Vabariigi Valitsus), without consulting the parliament (Riigikogu), declared by Order Nr. 76 on 12 March 2020 a state of emergency (eriolukord), defining the epidemic as an “emergency situation”. This is the first time in our modern history where a state of emergency has been declared. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently informed the Council of Europe of the Estonian derogation under Article 15 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

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Serbia and Covid-19: State of Emergency in a State in Disarray

The reaction of the Serbian authorities to the Covid-19 crisis demonstrated a weakness of Serbian state institutions: The measures imposed by the Serbian Government as a response to the Covid crisis, as well as the reaction of the competent bodies, are problematic both from a procedural and a substantive perspective. To make things worse, the judiciary has not been a great help either.

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Viet Nam: When Non-Emergency Measures Equal Emergency Measures

In Viet Nam, Wthe ‘state of emergency’ clauses are virtually a repetition of measures the government may take when there is no emergency. This means that were the government to declare a state of emergency there would be no reserving policy space for the government to fall back to. Viet Nam should thus seize the opportunity to revise its legislation and clearly distinguish between emergency and non-emergency measure, both in terms of degree and scope.

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