Killing me Softly? Scrutinising the Role of Soft Law in Greece’s Response to COVID-19
European Journal of Risk Regulation (Forthcoming 2021)
18 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 1, 2020
Greece emerged as the EU’s poster child in the fight against COVID-19 during the first few months of the pandemic. In this contribution, we provide a holistic and nuanced assessment of Greece’s regulatory response to COVID-19, focusing on the role of soft regulation. Through the vehicle of ‘acts of legislative content’, which can be broadly conceptualised as softly-adopted hard law, the Greek government largely achieved the goals of flexibility and simplified adoption procedures without having to resort to soft law per se. The role of soft law was rather limited, at least if judged by its overall volume, and it complemented hard law rather than constituting the primary basis of COVID-19 restrictions. Soft law adopted in the area of restrictions to freedom of movement illustrates this. The role of soft law was not, however, completely negligible. Soft law instruments regulated the processing of personal data, directly impacting the rights to privacy and data protection. Soft law was also pivotal in clarifying the criminal sanctioning of COVID-related rule violations. Our analysis reveals that Greece’s success in handling the first wave of the pandemic, while effective, was not beyond reproach. The greatest victims were asylum seekers who saw their right to apply for asylum curtailed, and their right to freedom of movement arguably unjustifiably restricted when limitations were lifted for the rest of the population. With a second wave of infections currently in full swing, it is imperative to keep scrutinising regulatory responses to ensure that they place the health and dignity of every individual (whoever they might be) at their core and are in full respect of their fundamental rights.
Keywords: European Union; EU Law; Regulatory responses; COVID-19; soft law; Greece; asylum; freedom of movement; data protection; right to privacy; right to asylum; freedom of movement; fundamental rights
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