Critical members EP: EU protects freedom of religion insufficiently


European Union

Leendert de Bruin, RD

Photo EPA, Filip Singer

The European Union can do more to speak up for the freedom of religion. Members of the European Parliament concluded that. They presented their report on Tuesday.

The report shows that freedom of religion is not doing very well globally. "Unfortunately, the freedom to confess a belief or religion has declined for years in many countries", Peter van Dalen says. He is a member of Parliament for the Dutch party ChristenUnie (Christian Union). On Tuesday, he presented the annual report of the intergroup of freedom of religion to the European Parliament (EP). Van Dalen is the president of the group.

It is not about which role the European Union plays in protecting and promoting freedom of religion in her foreign policies, it sounded in Brussels. "People die because of their faith", politician Carlo Fidanza declared. Together with Van Dalen, he leads the intergroup. "We have to do everything to help them and defend the people who cannot defend themselves."

Still no appointment of a European commissioner of Religious Freedom

The intergroup – of which Bert-Jan Ruissen, a conservative Christian politician of the SGP, is also part of – wants to draw attention to the lack of freedom. In addition, it aims to convince the EU to take action. According to the report's authors, the EU possesses potentially powerful instruments, but these have to be used more efficiently.

Especially the European Commission is admonished in the report. "The lack of interest for the issue of freedom of religion and conviction shown by the current Commission sends a wrong signal to the international community", the report says. Several EU institutes would mainly see the right to religious freedom as a bonus.

A large thorn in the flesh of the group is continuing vacancy of the position of a special EU-commissioner for religious freedom. The fulfilment of this position is surrounded by slowness. After the first envoy quit in 2019, it took almost two years before the Commission appointed a successor, Christos Stylianides, in May 2021. Stylianides, however, already stepped down in September. Since then, the office of the special envoy has been empty.

Recently, Van Dalen was promised by responsible EU-commissioner Margaritis Schinas that the appointment of a new envoy was a matter of weeks, he said on Tuesday. Whether that will become true remains uncertain. Earlier promises already tried the patience of politicians such as Van Dalen.

"Trade agreements are a good means to ensure the protection of human rights"

In addition, much can be won in the field of business relationships. In general, the EU "rarely" breaks off commercially beneficial deals with other countries because it is worried about the protection of human rights in these countries, the report says. "I would like to see more often that the preacher wins from the merchant", Van Dalen said.

Trade agreements are a very suitable means to ensure the protection of human rights, he notices. When the EP accepted a resolution last year to reconsider beneficial trade relations with Pakistan if the country would not tackle the laws concerning blasphemy, "all alarms in the country went off", the member of the European Parliament says.

  • This article was translated by CNE.news and previously published in Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on March 23rd, 2022.*


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