/ Solidarity in the Crisis


/ A crisis response that upholds freedom


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Is that a contradiction? Freedom, basic rights and solidarity in the COVID-19 pandemic

At the beginning of April, almost three weeks after the first lockdown began in Germany, the Deputy Chairwoman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger discussed the legal and socio-political circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and its potential impacts with journalist Meinhard Schmidt-Degenhard, former longstanding Social Affairs, Politics and Religious Affairs Chief Editor at the Hessische Rundfunk’s TV editorial office. How can we overcome the crisis without sacrificing freedom? Contact bans, curfews and all the other restrictions on personal freedoms may have been imposed to protect people in these unusual times, and be widely accepted, but they nevertheless represent massive interventions into our personal rights as individuals.

How can we harmonise these restrictions on basic rights with population protection? Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger made it absolutely clear that we are dealing with a problem of conflicting priorities. On the one hand, we are protecting the health of our citizens. On the other we are curtailing their rights of freedom. “We should propagate open debate in our democracy,” said the former Minister of Justice. No process and no measure should generally be assumed to be without alternative. There must always be an opportunity to critically examine processes and, where appropriate, take other avenues. Freedom always has been and always will be the paramount value in our constitution. Even a pandemic should not change that. Rights of freedom can only be curtailed via legislation, so parliament plays an important role that should not be in any way diminished in times of crisis Both discussion participants agreed that social solidarity and cohesion are important. They have also been evident in the numerous ways in which people have helped each other, e.g. young people going shopping for elderly neighbours.