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02 - 03 Dec 2020


16 h 00 min - 18 h 30 min

Protecting freedom of peaceful assembly.
A political participation tool also during COVID19

As the COVID-19 virus spread across Europe, in most EU countries national authorities restricted the public space and limited the possibility for gatherings of people. How to maintain people’s right to protest while also safeguarding the rights to life and health has been a great democratic challenge that has caught most unprepared on how to tackle it.  

The right to peaceful assembly enables people to participate collectively in shaping their societies in a powerful yet peaceful way. The exercise of this right allows people to express discontent and contestation peacefully and can contribute to the recognition of a wide range of fundamental rights, including the socio-economic rights, as well as the respect of the rule of law. Freedom of assembly and the right to protest gain special importance at times when far-reaching decisions are taken impacting people’s livelihood, as during the current health emergency. Additionally, freedom of assembly is especially important to give visibility to matters of general interest in contexts where dialogue between authorities and civil society is not structured or challenged. 

Yet, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the right to protest has been greatly restricted, as peaceful protesters have been impeded from organising or identified, dispersed, fined or arrested on the grounds of not having respected COVID-related measures. This happens in a context in which a deterioration of the safeguards of the right to peaceful assembly and more widely of the rule of law has been documented in several EU states for years.  

The event wants to spark a debate on the current state of the right to peaceful assembly and its intersection with the rule of law during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be an opportunity for civil society from across Europe to discuss with high-level representatives of EU and international institutions about the main challenges facing the right to peaceful assembly in Europe today and the role European institutions can play to counter the worrying limitations observed. 

Register here by 25 November:


Towards a European strategy to protect the right to protest from the grassroots up 

Wednesday 2 December

04:00 – 06:30 p.m. CET (Closed session, register by 25 November)


European venues to protect the right to peaceful assembly in the context of the rule of law framework 

Thursday 3 December 2020 

06:00 – 07:30 p.m. (CET), zoom 


Opening remarks 

  • Miguel Urban, Member, European Parliament  


Keynote input 

  • Birgit Van Hout, Regional Representative for Europe, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  



  • Alexandrina Najmowicz, European Civic Forum 


Setting the scene: national perspective on restrictions of the right to protest  

  • Anaïs Franquesa GrisoDefender a quien defiende (Spain 
  • Marta LempartOgólnopolski Strajk Kobiet (Poland)  
  • Arié Alimi, Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (France) 


European opportunities to open civic space 

  • Niovi Ringou, Head of the Justice Policy and Rule of Law Unit, DG JUST, European Commission  
  • Daniel FREUND, Member, European Parliament  
  • Anna Júlia DonáthMemberEuropean Parliament 


Concluding remarks 

  • Miguel Urban, Member, European Parliament  
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