Statement by Manon Aubry and Martin Schirdewan, Co-Presidents of the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament and Tiny Kox, President of the European Left group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The best way to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on society is to strengthen organised solidarity and protect fundamental rights throughout Europe.

Everywhere in Europe people are showing tremendous solidarity to each other. In post-pandemic Europe that solidarity in local communities, should be translated into change on a large scale so that recovery from this crisis will be based on equality, rights, social justice, and sustainability.

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every human being, according to the Constitution of the World Health Organisation, to which all European states have acceded. However, today’s COVID-19 pandemic clearly shows that policies based on austerity, privatisation, and deregulation have had an extremely negative impact on health systems in Europe, meaning severe problems in guaranteeing this fundamental right. To ensure universal access to health care throughout Europe, now and in the future, public health care should be brought into public or non-profit control. This would be in line with the revised European Social Charter (ESC) of the Council of Europe, which gives anyone without adequate resources the right to social and medical assistance (art 13). The accession of the EU to the revised ESC would be a clear signal that Europe truly recognises the fundamental right of universal access to health care and the obligation on states to provide this care to all citizens.

Throughout Europe, measures to combat the pandemic are severely limiting fundamental freedoms and rights. According to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), these measures should be as short as possible and as limited as possible. Nevertheless, in several European countries, the pandemic is being used by authorities as a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic. In many other European states, there is a danger of imbalance between measures to combat the pandemic and obligations to respect fundamental rights. The ECHR gives access to each citizen to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in case of such a disbalance. Especially in times of crisis, this Convention should be respected throughout Europe, by all countries as well as the EU. Accelerating the process of EU accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights would therefore show that Europe really wants to fight this pandemic while upholding fundamental values and standards.

We, therefore, urge all member states of the Council of Europe, including all EU Member States, to increase organised solidarity and to protect fundamental rights in these times of crisis. We urge the EU and the Council of Europe to finalize accession of the EU to the ECHR and to start negotiations on EU accession to the revised ESC.

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