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6th anniversary of EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief: implementation still a way to go

Summary

  • Calls to strengthen mandate of Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Progress reports still not released

BRUSSELS (24 June 2019) – Today marks the sixth anniversary of the adoption of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief. They are intended to inform the way in which the EU should protect freedom of religion or belief in its external action. In 2016, the position of the Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU was created. Despite these positive steps, recent reports, both on a national and on an EU level, reveal that violations of freedom of religion are increasing around the world.

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. Despite the EU’s commitment to evaluate progress in implementing the Guidelines three years after the adoption, we see that six years have passed and no such report has been released. We call on the EU to act transparently and with integrity when it comes to its commitments on freedom of religion and to strengthen the position of the Special Envoy,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.

Implementation of Guidelines falling behind

The Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief were adopted in 2013. Containing directions on how freedom of religion can be effectively protected and promoted worldwide, the Guidelines have created awareness around the violations occurring around the globe.

Nonetheless, transparency on the implementation has been lacking. In January 2019, a Report of the European Parliament observed that no public report on the implementation of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief exists and urged that the evaluation should be made public ‘without delay’. It also called for ‘progress reports’ on the implementation of the Guidelines to be communicated to the Parliament and Council. An annual report on freedom of religion or belief by the European Parliament Intergroup on the topic in 2018 concluded that the EU can do much more to protect religious freedom. Necessary steps include strengthening the mandate of the Special Envoy through greater resources and visibility. Additionally, there have been calls for increased transparency regarding the implementation of the Guidelines.

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