Research

JuRe explores the legitimacy questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic from the points of view of politics, administration and justice. The project (2021-2024) is carried out by the University of Turku, the University of Helsinki, and Tampere University. The research is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC).

JuRe examines the effects of the pandemic on democratic governance, fundamental rights and the structures and relationships of constitutional institutions in Finland. We focus, among other things, on the openness of decision-making, citizen trust, legal oversight and balanced implementation of fundamental rights.

In addition, we compare how different European countries and the EU responded to the pandemic and enabled a just recovery from the pandemic. We assess the legitimacy of the restriction measures and identify best practices. We deepen our approach by examining past crises and the development of crisis management and emergency legislation in Finland.

Our goal is to enhance the crisis preparedness of Finnish democracy by scrutinising and further developing the legislation and practices of crisis governance:

  • Stable legislative framework: we produce information and increase understanding on the legal assessments and effects of the COVID-19 crisis. We identify and assess the needs to develop crisis legislation and formulate policy recommendations for the development of crisis legislation.
  • Democratic governance practices: we identify democratically legitimate practices of crises governance and preconditions for just recovery. We use this information to specify recommendations for the development of crisis legislation.

Read more about our research themes below.

Work Packages

WP1: Challenges to European Solidarity

Our research creates a comparative overview of the actions of European countries and the European Union to control the pandemic and enable justified recovery. We investigate the practical measures at both the national and European levels, especially in the Nordic countries, in addition to the views and arguments of citizens who have challenged these practices. Moreover, we evaluate the actions and statutes made by the political and administrative elite to sustain social balance in different countries and efforts to accommodate these actions into European politics. We also identify the practices that have been experienced as just that could be utilised in improving the Finnish regulatory framework. Furthermore, we assess how European decision-making could function better in future crises compared with the policies regarding COVID-19 that we have seen. For our data, we use public documents and surveys, as well as media analyses.

Inquiries: Henri Vogt, University of Turku, henri.vogt(at)utu.fi

WP2: Nordic Pathways of Crisis Management and Recovery

We study the challenges that hybrid crises and peacetime emergencies pose on Nordic models of governance and society. These models are viewed as strong due to their reproduction of high trust in society, which is founded on legitimate governance and a robust constitutional state. Resorting to exceptional conditions confronts the two basic fundaments of the Nordic model: first, the active participation in the processes of knowledge-building and policy-drafting by societal actors, and second, the strong constitutional guarantee of equality, autonomy and justice in public decision-making. We examine the attention given to these principles and the actions regarding them historically. We inspect selected situations of past crises and look at the development of both crisis management and emergency legislation. We also relate these developments to those of other Nordic countries, especially Sweden. Our research material consists of policy-making and policy planning documents and other public sources in addition to thematic key actor interviews.

Inquiries: Johanna Rainio-Niemi, University of Helsinki, johanna-rainio.niemi(at)helsinki.fi

WP3: Openness and Legal Oversight

We track the challenges and problems of openness and legal oversight and administration in crises similar to the coronavirus pandemic. The problems regarding the openness of administration are connected, above all, to the publicity of decision-making and its knowledge base as well as to the possibilities to participate in the decision-making process by different actors. We look at the role and actions of the principal legal overseers (the Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Chancellor of Justice) during the crisis and the institutional and political tensions connected to their status. In addition to the institutional stabilisation and change post-crisis, we study how administrative crises can potentially support and strengthen democratic institutional practices and rights of the individual. Moreover, we historically analyse the change regarding institutional development and the central concepts. We make use of institutional analysis as well, where key actor interviews, annual reports, time series data of complaints, and statistics, in addition to other public statements, releases and interviews, function as our research material.

Inquiries: Tero Erkkilä, University of Helsinki, tero.erkkila(at)helsinki.fi

WP4: Stable Constitutional Framework for Post-Pandemic Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic and the exceptional conditions it has brought about have required the application and adjustment of existing national crisis legislation as well as novel legislative instruments. Many of these legal mechanisms have been utilised for the first time with no established lines of interpretation or operation, and they have far-reaching consequences for individuals, society and public institutions. Furthermore, the legal system of crisis management has proved overly complex and unintelligible when reasonable and efficient ways to manage the pandemic (e.g., limiting the freedom of movement) have run into constitutional problems in their implementation. We study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the constitutional institutions and structures in addition to the constitutional and regulatory mechanisms utilised in managing the pandemic. Based on our findings, we also make suggestions for renewing and strengthening the framework for crisis legislation. We employ critical analysis of the relevant statements of the Constitutional Law Committee complemented with other key legal sources.

Inquiries: Anu Mutanen, University of Tampere, anu.mutanen(at)tuni.fi

WP5: Fundamental Rights and Post-Pandemic Recovery

We address the pressures on, and impending changes to, Finland’s fundamental rights system during the COVID-19 crisis. We examine the divisions and tensions that have arisen between individual rights and collective goods with an aim to find a legally sound balance between them. Legislatively, we look at whether situations like the current pandemic should be managed within a framework of ordinary legislation specifically designed for such pandemics, without resorting to emergency powers. An integral part of our research resides in drawing comparisons between Nordic judicial systems. We follow the doctrines of legal scholarship and thus focus on the interpretation and systematisation of legal materials as they appear on the surface level of law, which allows us to make suggestions for future legislation. The individual legislative decisions, statements and opinions of the Constitutional Law Committee, court decisions, the decisions by legal overseers in addition to jurisprudential interpretations and analyses given under the pandemic conditions provide the research material for our analysis of legal argumentation.

Inquiries: Janne Salminen, University of Turku, janne.salminen(at)utu.fi