The Covid crisis and the many freedom-restricting measures that have had to be taken in almost every part of the world have revived debate on the respect and defence of individual freedoms. This has, of course, been the case in Europe, the cradle of human rights. But beyond the one-off debate that ensues naturally from that crisis, the question of defending fundamental freedoms across the EU, understood in a broader sense — the defence of democracy and the norms that define it within member, candidate and neighbouring states — deserves re-evaluation. This is the focus of this article, which reminds us of the EU’s basic principles in this area (no place for dictatorial or liberticidal regimes); the texts on which these principles draw, but which can seemingly be violated without effective sanctions; and concerns inevitably raised by anti-democratic abuses in third countries in the EU’s neighbourhood. Jean-François Drevet sounds the alarm here, calling on the European Union to assert its principles and equip itself to apply them more strictly and effectively in what has become a more precarious context for democratic values.