MEPs sign declaration urging EU to strengthen freedom of conscience. Special Representative for Freedom of Religion and Belief needed.
BRUSSELS – On Thursday, members of the European Parliament from four political groups signed the “Declaration on the Importance of Strengthening the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Conscience.” The declaration cited concern over an increasing deterioration of this fundamental right throughout Europe and the world.
The parliamentarians called on the European Union and its member states to follow their legal obligations and ensure a “robust protection of freedom of conscience.”
The declaration is a wake-up call
“The declaration is a wake-up call,” said Sophia Kuby, director of EU Advocacy for ADF International. “The protection of freedom of conscience is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the Union’s founding documents. It has generally been taken for granted in Europe since after the Second World War; however, today we see this fundamental right deteriorating again, with a marked acceleration in recent years. It is far from being fully guaranteed in all EU member states, let alone in the world.”
ADF International is at the forefront of protecting fundamental human rights and will soon be publishing a white paper on the topic of conscience.
“ADF International welcomes the commitment of the MEPs to tackle the issue of eroding freedom of conscience,” Kuby added. “Today, across the globe, millions are being confronted with the same difficult choice: either violate their deeply held moral principles, or face personal or professional ruin, criminal conviction, or even death. No one should be forced into this dilemma. This is a direct violation of human dignity.”
Special representative needed
The MEPs reiterated the call for the creation of a Special Representative for Freedom of Religion and Belief in the World as a way to tackle the problem more efficiently. The EU-Parliament has already demanded this position in its resolution on the systematic mass murder by ISIS in February. It would increase the EU’s ability to address the growing restrictions on conscience rights internationally.
“Internally, the EU needs to start acting according to its obligations,” said Adina Portaru, legal counsel for ADF International in Brussels. “National laws in Sweden and Finland do not protect the right to conscientious objection against life-ending procedures for their doctors and nurses. The very existence of institutional conscience is under discussion in a number of EU countries. Ethos-based organisations are driven out of business due to far-reaching laws that undermine freedom of conscience.”