COVID-19 and Emergency Powers in Western European Democracies: Trends and Issues

This paper addresses the legal reactions of several Western European democracies to COVID-19. It first offers an overview of whether and how the constitutions of selected Western European countries regulate emergency, so as to attempt a categorisation of emergency powers. Secondly, the analysis considers whether (or not) these emergency models were applied in the fight against the pandemic caused by COVID-19. In doing so, it finds out that resort to emergency powers as written in constitutions was unusual as a response to the pandemic, since many countries preferred alternative strategies. The conclusion points out that a sort of ‘escape’ from pre-existing emergency powers could be observed and discusses the reasons that may lie behind this choice. Furthermore, the authors provide recommendations as to changes that might be introduced once COVID-19 is over, to improve emergency frameworks and make them suitable to face global emergencies.