This GSoD In Focus aims at providing a brief overview of the state of democracy in Europe at the end of 2019, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, and then assesses some of the preliminary impacts that the pandemic has had on democracy in the region in the last 10 months.

Key facts and findings include:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in a largely democratic Europe. Only 4 countries in the region (10 per cent) are not democracies, while many of the democracies are high performing.
  • Democracy in Europe, however, has in recent years experienced erosion and backsliding. More than half of European democracies have eroded in the last 5 years. In particular, 3 countries—Hungary, Poland and Serbia—have registered a more severe form of erosion, called democratic backsliding, with Hungary regressing on its democratic standards for the past 14 years.
  • The pandemic has intensified these pre-existing concerns. The 3 backsliding countries in Europe have implemented a number of measures to curb the pandemic that are concerning from a democracy standpoint.
  • The main democratic challenges caused by the pandemic in Europe pertain to the disruption of electoral cycles, curtailment of civil liberties, the use of contact tracing apps, the increase in gender inequality and domestic violence, risks to vulnerable groups, executive aggrandizement, protest waves, corruption cases and challenges in the relationship between local and national governance.
  • Europe’s democracies have mostly showed resilience, and opportunities for furthering the integrity of elections, for digitalization and for innovative social protests have arisen.

The review of the state of democracy during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 uses qualitative analysis and data of events and trends in the region collected through International IDEA’s Global Monitor of COVID-19’s Impact on Democracy and Human Rights, an initiative co-funded by the European Union.


Publication date
04 February 2021
Number of pages


1. Introduction

2. The democratic landscape in Europe prior to the COVID-19 pandemic

3. Democracy in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and opportunities


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Taking Stock of Regional Democratic Trends in Europe Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

GSoD In Focus Special Brief
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