The conference was organized by the European Liberal Forum (ELF) in cooperation with the Republikon Institute on the 24th of November and it focused on the state of human rights in Central-Europe during the second wave of Covid-19. The pandemic has caused serious economic and political changes globally, which forced governments to adopt a number of extraordinary measures to tackle to crisis. However, it essential to ensure that democratic institutions and minority rights are not deteriorated in this crisis management. The participants of the round-table discussion were Sarka Prat, board member of the European Liberal Forum and executive director of IPPS, Nataša Briški, journalist of the Meta List media network, Blazej Lenkowski, president of Fundacia Liberté!, Irena Joveva, member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe) and István Szent-Iványi, former ambassador of Hungary to Slovenia. The moderator was Dániel Mikecz, colleague of the Republikon Institution.
In her opening speech, Sarka Prat mentioned that restrictions had been widely accepted by the public during the first wave, but Central Europeans countries had been accused of abusing their power in the name of protecting citizens’ lives. She said that the results of these measures became clear: they mostly benefited government’s short-term political desire, political institutions and minority rights were seriously deteriorated. Later in the panel discussion, she added that there was a significant drop in the level of fear among citizens, who are now tend to question the efficiency of certain governmental measures. She also stated that we have to cope with such situations, because Covid-19 will not be the last virus that has a significant impact on our lives. This also means that governments need to be better prepared.
Nataša Briški presented the current situation in Slovenia. She mentioned that the mortality rate is much higher than in the spring, the level of trust towards anti-corona measures is very low and popularity of the government is declining, as well. There are also serious problems with proper information of the public. Furthermore, she made attention of a possible long-term impact of the crisis, which would be the introduction of basic monthly income. Some groups of Slovenians made experience with a one-off solidarity bonus that was aimed to preserve jobs and according to a recent survey, the majority of people supports the idea of basic income.
Blazej Lenkowski reported that the situation in Poland was dramatic. More and more demonstrations and oppositional actions are oppressed, local government revenues dropped significantly and decisions about the next year public budget are not transparent. He also noticed that the popularity of the ruling party is declining. In addition, he emphasized that lockdown measures were not efficient in Poland and that these should only be used for a short period of time to preserve the public health system.
Irena Joveva joined Nataša Briški’s opinion and said that the state of human rights in Slovenia is slowly degrading. She also mentioned that the current situation is not just economically, but also emotionally very difficult and that the pressure on the media is enormous. In connection with EU affairs, she was convinced that the possible Hungarian and Polish veto on the multiannual financial framework and Next Generation EU is irresponsible and damages every citizen of the Union.
István Szent-Iványi mentioned that even before the crisis there were some serious human rights violations in Hungary and the situation has only become worse. The spectrum of restrictions was wide: for instance, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech, the electoral system and LMBTQ+ rights were hit. He made attention of the fact that the birth gender of a person can’t be modified anymore and the adoption for same-sex couples is planned to be made practically impossible. Finally, he welcomed the downturn of populism from Brazil, through the United States to Hungary.
You can re-watch our conference, here:
This event is organised by Republikon and the European Liberal Forum with the financial support of the European Parliament.
Neither the European Parliament nor the European Liberal Forum are responsible for the content, or for any use that may be made of it.