How far can fundamental rights be restricted?
After a few weeks of lockdown doubts about the appropriateness of various measures have been expressed in many European countries. Is a comprehensive ban on demonstrations really justified? And what about the freedom of movement? Europe's press calls for careful reflection on the anti-democratic pitfalls of health protection.
The state can't wall in its citizens
President Zeman's statement that the borders could remain closed for over a year has sparked a lively debate in the Czech Republic. Lidové noviny calls for a reversal:
“At the beginning of the crisis, when the virus was introduced from Italy or Austria, closing the border was logical and understandable for national self-protection. But as time passes it's proving to be untenable. In the long run you can't fence off countries with barbed wire - and not just because of separated families, students or commuters abroad. ... The Czech Republic can't simply deprive its citizens of the right to leave their country. Another issue is those who are interested in tourism in the summer. And who will be able to afford it.”
Restrictions must be proportionate
All Europe's leaders must take into account the instructions for maintaining democratic principles put out by the Council of Europe last week, Dagens Nyheter urges:
“Sweden should also take a good look at the Council of Europe's guidelines. The demand for proportionality, i.e. appropriateness of the measures, applies to all restrictions imposed in a country that respects democracy, human rights and freedom. So there should be a time limit on bans of meetings of more than 50 people. It doesn't make sense for such a ban to be applied unconditionally in Sweden.”
Joint responsibility instead of a police state
State restrictions that do not respect citizens as rational individuals can end in authoritarianism, warns Mérce:
“A disproportionate use of force can destroy social solidarity and trust. This attitude was reflected in the indignation of certain Italian mayors when many citizens began going jogging outside. ... We can expect people to behave like responsible citizens instead of trying to get around the lockdown restrictions. But we can also expect those in power to regard them as such. ... As long as we can't recognise both the legitimacy of the right to physical exercise and the legitimacy of fear of the virus we leave the door open for authoritarianism.”