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Mixed Messages On Religious Freedom, European Commission Still Undecided On Special Envoy

The European Commission continues to send mixed messages about the mandate of the Special Envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU. It recently stated the position would be terminated in a letter responding to an appeal by international experts on religious freedom. Now, in a statement in an article the Commission has stated that the position remains under further review.

“The lack of clarity regarding the renewal of the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside of the EU is problematic. In the midst of this health crisis, when many religious minorities around the world are facing increasing limitations on their right to freedom of religion or belief, there is a clear need for the European Commission to speak clearly on the importance of this fundamental right,” said Adina Portaru, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Brussels.

Role of the Special Envoy

The Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU was introduced in 2016 in order to uphold freedom of religion or belief on behalf of the EU worldwide. Part of the mandate included visits to countries with some of the most violent religious persecution in the world in order to help facilitate dialogue and response plans. The Special Envoy played a decisive role in helping Asia Bibi safely leave Pakistan after she was acquitted of blasphemy charges. There has been robust support for the continuation of the mandate, voiced by the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance, national special envoys, scholars, and civil society.

“The Special Envoy has played a crucial role in bringing the horrors of religious persecution to light at the European level. The role has created awareness around some of the worst and most persistent violations of fundamental rights around the world and enabled the EU to be a leader in countering them. The EU should not only continue, but intensify efforts to protect freedom of religion or belief around the world,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International.

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