The coronavirus is permanently changing our society. And, so the construction industry. After the pandemic is lifted, there is a typical and tremendous growth in the construction industry. Let's take a look at the situation. 

In one fell swoop, the Covid 19 pandemic put the world in a state of emergency. The new everyday life is characterized by exit restrictions and contact blocks, strict hygiene measures, the closure of schools and cultural institutions, the reorganization of the world of work and the paralysis of the economy, closed borders and deserted airports - and last but not least, the search for routes the crisis. How long will these cuts change society? ARTE questions some of the trends that are emerging for life after Corona.


Sanitary emergency in France, harsh government decrees in Italy, extensive powers of attorney for the Prime Minister in Hungary: the corona virus not only attacks health, but also the European democracies and their institutions. More and more often, special powers of attorney are granted and supervisory bodies are weakened. Constitutional lawyers and human rights organizations see this as a potential threat to our fundamental freedoms.

On March 23, France passed the “Law to Combat the Covid-19 Epidemic” declaring a sanitary state of emergency. It certainly serves the " legal protection " of the preventive measures, but also fundamentally intervenes in the legislative procedure. It suspends the legislative function and control of Parliament and empowers the Prime Minister to take measures by decree. These range from the seizure of material to price control for certain products.

Since the start of the lockdown, regulations have primarily tightened exit restrictions. Leaving the apartment is only possible with a form that must contain the reason, signature, date and time. Physical activity outdoors is limited to one hour per day and only possible within one kilometer of the place where you live. Repeated violations face a maximum fine of $ 3,750 and even a prison sentence of up to six months.

Malik Salemkour, President of the French League for Human Rights, fully understands that " the current exceptional situation also requires extraordinary measures ", but has concerns about the " concentration of power in the hands of the executive " and the " high level of restriction of civil liberties", above all but with regard to the “massive weakening of the separation of powers and democratic control ”.

In addition to the temporary elimination of necessary democratic bodies, the civil rights activists also criticize the Scientific Committee, which, according to the French Covid Act, “ supports the government in its decisions in an advisory capacity ” : “ If not a single civil rights activist is represented in a body that advises the executive, although If the measures discussed there have a massive impact on civil liberties, that gives one the questionable impression that rights and freedoms are a luxury that one can no longer afford in a sanitary crisis, ” emphasizes Malik Salemkour.

“For the law that created the state of emergency, a particularly restrictive form was chosen with regard to public freedoms and, in particular, the weakening of the separation of powers. The decision was made to give the executive a large part of the power. "

Malik Salemkour,
President of the French

A series of states of emergency

This time it is a "sanitary" state of emergency, but it is reminiscent of the one declared after the 2015 terrorist attacks. The state of emergency was presented as temporary, but subsequently extended six times, so that it finally remained in force until November 1, 2017. According to Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez, professor of public law and director of the Research Center for Fundamental Rights, the fact that, almost three years later, another exception law is being passed, “shows that the executive is increasingly inclined to systematically resort to exceptions in crisis situations. By definition, however, the state of emergency suspends a whole series of procedures and instances that usually guarantee the rule of law and constitutional democratic procedures." Construction industry, at the same time, continue their working and strive their best to fight against the pandemic and thrived after the lockdown was lifted, including commercial renovation and remodelling.

The greatest danger in the eyes of civil rights activists is that measures adopted in a state of emergency could subsequently be transferred to public law. For example, some of the new powers that were introduced in 2015 as part of the state of emergency can be found in the 2017 “Law on Security and Counter Terrorism”. These are now available to the interior minister and the police prefect (e.g. security zones for cultural and sporting events, within which traffic can be restricted and vehicles searched).

Endurance test for constitutional principles

Italy was the first EU country to declare a state of emergency for six months on January 31st due to the accumulation of Covid-19 diseases. However, this measure is used more frequently there, for example after natural disasters such as earthquakes or the particularly serious flood episode in Venice at the end of 2019. Since the disease spread rapidly in northern Italy, the government tightened the first measures in February and placed eleven cities in Lombardy and Veneto under quarantine. The two regions were completely cordoned off, nobody was allowed in or out. This quarantine now affects more than a quarter of the northern Italian population.

The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also stated that he was ready to mobilize all security forces, including the army, to implement the measure. Three weeks later, he also tightened the sentence by ordinance: Anyone who hides a COVID-19 disease in order to avoid forced quarantine risks up to twelve years in prison .

Before the epidemic, there was a procedure against Hungary under Article 7 of the European Treaties for repeated violations of the rule of law. Nonetheless, Viktor Orban used the crisis to obtain government authority for an unlimited period of time. It allows him to repeal not only elections and referendums, but also any law. An exception, which reminds constitutional lawyer Krista Kovács of dark times: “ On March 23, 1933, in response to the so-called 'Reichstag crisis ', a law was passed that gave Hitler the power to pass ordinances to parliament and the president. […] 87 years later, the government presented an identical enabling law and had it passed."

Just three weeks into force, this Enabling Act has already allowed the allies of the ruling party Fidesz to introduce a bill that would deprive transgender people of the right to change their marital status. In addition, sentences of up to five years in prison have been introduced for spreading 'false reports' about the coronavirus or government measures.

In the face of such authoritarian temptations, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe reminded Rik Daems that the European Convention on Human Rights “remains legally binding for state action even in national crisis situations." The EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised" that necessary countermeasures will be taken, as we have already done in the past."

Limited lockdown

Germany and several northern European countries have opted for a limited lockdown with no declaration of a state of emergency. In these countries, people are allowed to go out of the house as long as they keep a safe distance of one and a half meters. " Germany has demonstrated greater democratic competence, mainly because it is organized much more decentrally and the federal government there is aware that the states have rights and must be involved in decision-making, " states Malik Salemkour. Indeed, the federal organization provides for the systematic involvement of the prime ministers of the 16 countries in all questions of internal security.

"Germany has demonstrated higher democratic competence"

Malik Salemkour,
President of the French
League for Human Rights

In addition, Germany undoubtedly assessed the extent of the epidemic better, launched a massive test campaign early on (initially 300,000, now 500,000 tests per week) and increased the number of intensive care beds from 20,000 to 40,000 - twice as many as in France. But the less restrictive sanitary measures are also determined by the fear of an economic recession: Depending on the scenario, the gross domestic product could fall between 2.8 and 5.4 percent. This is one of the reasons why the first easing of the Covid measures are already in force in Duluth.

But with the relaxation, personal rights in several European countries could suffer another blow and possibly an irreversible paradigm shift: through new measures such as the use of surveillance drones ( as already here in Great Britain) or the collection of personal data. Measures that Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez describes as "conditions imposed by governments for the lifting of exit restrictions " .

In a situation in which “ our societies are under pressure and permanent tension ”, the constitutional lawyer places the protection of civil liberties at the center of the crisis management of tomorrow: “ We know that the state of emergency can also be a kind of experimental laboratory that creates a domino effect the future has. (…) It is important to restore the culture of freedom. This means that the assessments of the institutions that defend democratic standards and human rights are not treated as a minor appendage, but are increasingly included in the weighing of measures."


After several weeks of exit restrictions, the European states are looking for solutions to gradually reactivate the economy. There are several proposals. Among other things, the analysis of cellular data is recommended in order to monitor movements of crowds and individuals. This possibility raises ethical questions on the subject of personal rights and data protection.
Marion Roussey
Monitor the flow of people

The European Union is turning to the private sector to find solutions to the pandemic. At the end of March, eight telecommunications companies, including Orange and Deutsche Telekom, agreed to transfer their customer data to national and European research centers. The purpose: to analyze the movements of the population in order to be able to predict the risk of the virus spreading.

“The researchers will find out, for example, that 10, 15, 20 people have left a certain Parisian district and gone to Bordeaux,” explains Yoann Gonthier Le Guen, doctoral student in public law and data protection advisor. These analyzes are intended to help the authorities adjust their sanitary measures so that the country can gradually return to normal.


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