The COVID-19 crisis affects our societies in profound and multifaceted ways. Far beyond the public health threat, the crisis causes economic dislocations, social disruptions and information disorder that test political processes and institutions. In particular, certain measures taken by national governments in the context of states of emergency to contain the virus as fast and effectively as possible represent fundamental challenges to democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, including women’s rights. In addition, the crisis also opens opportunities for positive change and innovative new solutions that research actions will help to identify and grasp.
Even if allegedly temporary, derogations from fundamental constitutional checks and balances, individual rights and civil liberties might render liberal democracies permeable to illiberal attitudes and mind frames. In this vein, research should examine the impact of the pandemic on populist and extremist discourses and proposals, and assess whether it has bolstered polarisation and the appeal of authoritarianism or whether, on the contrary, it has provided impetus and momentum for an effective uphold of democratic accountability and judicial control.
Moreover, a stocktaking exercise should allow identifying whether the political trend emerging from the crisis is a demand for greater and improved collaboration and concerted action amongst EU Member States and Associated Countries or, on the contrary, an overall “renationalisation” of the EU and international spheres.
Proposals are expected to address the following: Examine the impacts of the different “exceptional or crisis politics”, including the invocation of emergency clauses under human rights law, on the constitutional and democratic polity (rule of law, political institutions, political participation, human rights and freedoms). A comparative and historical analysis, taking into account the varying approaches followed by the different governments, including the digitalisation of political participation and the respect for human rights and freedoms in the digital sphere, is encouraged. Take stock of the reconfiguration of the geopolitical landscape following the responses and policies put forward by the different actors of the international order. Identify and propose changes and reforms required by the global governance in order to enhance the capacity to cope with and react to similar future crises. In particular, examine and propose “circuit-breaker” mechanisms that could isolate systemic risks early on and prevent them from spreading. Build evidence, including based on past crises, on how international cooperation, at both European and global levels, is a vital tool for national governments to overcome contemporary large-scale crises. Propose ways for the EU and the multilateral system to demonstrate that they can complement and lead national governments’ efforts in contexts of security and health threats. In this respect, the impact on the legitimacy of the EU following on its role and actions during the crisis is of particular interest. Study how governmental and societal responses to the pandemic, including the digitalisation of government and society, have affected trust in public authorities and among groups and individuals in society. This includes research on pandemic-related disinformation and mechanisms to cope with. A comparative analysis of the information flow between science, politics and civil society is encouraged. Proposals should actively engage with a range of stakeholders, such as social partners, civil society, citizens, research practitioners, industry and public authorities. International cooperation is encouraged in order to better achieve the expected outcomes.[[Synergies with successful proposals from topic “Disinformation and fake news are combated and trust in the digital world is raised” of Cluster 3 are encouraged. (HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-03)]]