Testing Europe’s Democratic Legitimacy in the Covid-19 Crisis

16th February 2021 @ 9:30 am – 5:00 pm

The Covid-19 crisis has challenged democracy in Europe, including in the European Union (EU) and its member states. Political leaders have made contested decisions that restrain civil liberties. For instance, they have closed borders, implemented significant limitations to economic life and approved financial assistance for heavily impacted economies.

The EU has been pressured internally and externally to prove that it is an effective actor in addressing the public health threat and ensuing economic crisis. Leaders of the EU have established a historic recovery and resilience fund to help the economies of member states; however, the crisis has also highlighted existing cleavages within the EU regarding, for example, questions of democratic norms and the rule of law.

Manifold deliberation and contestation processes have accompanied all levels of decision-making during the Covid-19 crisis. Parliamentary institutions have struggled to keep pace with executive decisions, while pandemic restrictions have often prevented Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament from physically attending parliamentary sessions.

This workshop explores the extent to which Europe’s democratic processes and institutions have been compromised or have demonstrated resilience during the Covid-19 crisis. To this end, it interrogates whether support for European institutions and policies has been altered and how the EU’s actorness and legitimacy has been framed by elites and citizens during the crisis. Contributions investigate how different European representative institutions have approached decision-making during the crisis and if European policies have been able to provide output legitimacy for Europe’s political systems.

Contributions to the workshop derive chiefly – but not exclusively – from the EU and Covid-19 projects hosted by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced-Studies’ European Politics and Governance Programme.


Brigid Laffan 
Anja Thomas