“Local and Regional Authorities need to ensure both relevant health protection measures and exercising of fundamental rights. This is a complex situation which needs analysis in preparation of what is to come”. Mark Speich, Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs for the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia and Chair of the Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) Commission made these remarks during a webinar “Tensions between crisis management and fundamental freedoms” in the context of the health crisis and restrictions imposed in various member states.
During the meeting, Olgierd Geblewicz, President of the Westpomeranian Region and President of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Region discussed how COVID19 measures had an impact on political rights and democracy in Poland. He said “Despite COVID19, the Polish government initially decided to move forward with elections, knowing perfectly well that these circumstances deprived the opposition from any form of political campaigning & deprived citizens of participation in political debates.”
Geblewicz also spoke about challenges faced by local and regional authorities during the pandemic. “My region has 180km of border with Germany. Border restrictions left a tremendous impact. The absence of a plan and lack of information on when restrictions will be lifted to restart tourism, cross border work and business activity has not allowed local authorities and entrepreneurs to make necessary preparations. He concluded that the pandemic helped us to value more free movement. “It was shocking for our citizens to have borders closed. We need more Europe, more regional measures and approach as well as more clarity in such situations.”
Helma Kuhn-Theis, Member of Weiskirchen Municipal Council said that regions faced big problems with closed borders. She remarked “Closure of borders do not solve problems. We need to a plan to work together in such situations said our member”