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PACE President: the rule of law must prevail in the emergency situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic

Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

PACE President Rik Daems has again recalled that the rule of law must prevail in the emergency situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic – and stressed that any laws linked to the pandemic should comply with the constitution and international standards.

“Today’s debate – held as the crisis enters its second year – has confirmed that parliamentary oversight over emergency measures, transparency in decision-making, and proper checks and balances remain essential for the realisation of the rule of law and democracy,” said the President.

“They are also crucial to gain and sustain citizens’ confidence in public authorities and democratic institutions and processes,” he added.

“Parliaments, and the media coverage of their work, ensure that all major political forces are represented and able to participate in democratic decision-making, thus also ensuring the legitimacy of governments.”

The President recalled that while the European Convention on Human Rights allows for extensive restrictions on rights in emergency situations, such restrictions should only be applied when necessary, be proportionate to the public interest being pursued, be time-limited, and have a clear basis in the law.

The President recalled the guidance provided to all member States in this respect in the toolkit of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to which she referred also in her speech at the Standing Committee today.

The President again urged all member States to conduct “prompt, thorough and independent reviews of their national experience and the compatibility of the national response with European standards”.

He also called for genuine and constructive co-operation between international organisations, highlighting the positive example of PACE’s ongoing dialogue with the World Health Organisation during the current crisis.

The President stressed the importance of ensuring real solidarity among all member States and called for a “a common European approach to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are a global public good, available to all, everywhere”.

He underlined that the pandemic will have unprecedented, multi-faceted, wide-ranging and long-lasting consequences for the social, economic and political life of our societies. It also presents a real challenge for the education sector, and risks widening the digital and social divide.

He concluded by saying that the Parliamentary Assembly would continue to support national parliaments in their efforts to tackle the pandemic and prepare them to face any future crisis effectively.

This statement follows a current affairs debate held this morning at the Standing Committee meeting on “Democracies facing Covid-19: the way forward”