Rule of law continues to deteriorate in Europe – new report by 37 European organisations 

Democracy and rule of law continued to weaken across Europe in 2023, and restrictions on the right to peaceful protest have increased significantly. That is what is shown by a new report on rule and law and human rights produced by 37 European human rights organisations. Older democracies, for example Sweden and Italy, also show signs of the gradual erosion of rule of law. 

The Liberties Rule of Law Report 2024 is the most extensive independent report submitted to the EU. A group of civil liberties groups dedicated to strengthening freedoms and rights reviewed 19 EU countries and their adherence to rule of law and human rights in 2023. The report provides this valuable information to the EU Commission, which annually assesses how EU member states uphold their commitments to rule of law.   

According to this year’s report, the rule of law in the EU continued to deteriorate in 2023, as governments further weakened legal and democratic checks and balances. Balazs Denes, Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), comments:  

“Liberties Rule of Law Report 2024 shows that intentional harm or neglect to fix breaches to the rule of law by governments, if left unaddressed, can evolve into systemic issues over time. The growing far right, building on these abuses, will very quickly dismantle European democracy if the European Commission does not use the tools at its disposal, including infringement proceedings or conditional freezing of EU funds, in a much more assertive way. There is no need to wait until a captive state like Hungary’s emerges with an irremovable anti-democratic regime”.   

Sweden is one of the countries under review, and Civil Rights Defenders contributed to the report with information about the situation in Sweden. 

Sweden is heading in the wrong direction 

In the report, Civil Rights Defenders highlights, among other things, that the democratic space for civil society continues to shrink in Sweden. Over the past year, civil society has increasingly been kept from fully participating in legislative processes.  

The report emphasises that new legislative proposals, especially within criminal policy, infringe upon human rights. Discrimination against religious and ethnic minority groups threatens their right to freedom of assembly and expression. 

“We see worrying developments that risk undermining public confidence in authorities and the justice system, and which in the long term weaken the rule of law in Sweden”, says John Stauffer, Legal Director at Civil Rights Defenders. 

A comprehensive and in-depth report 

A comprehensive and in-depth report 

The report is the most in-depth ”shadow report” on the rule of law and human rights by an independent civil liberties network to date. It highlights issues such as media freedom, checks and balances, corruption, and systematic human rights issues. In addition to the situation in Sweden, the report covers countries such as Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Germany, and others. A total of 19 EU countries have been reviewed in this year’s report. 

The report was produced by The Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) and its member organizations. Liberties is a watchdog that safeguards the human rights of everyone in the European Union. Civil Rights Defenders is one of the member organisations that examines the situation in Sweden. 

Read the report 

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