Sunday 18. August 2019

Religious Freedom Guidelines: a welcome step forward


Press 25/06/2013: COMECE welcomes the adoption today by the Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the EU of New “EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief“. This new instrument provides the staff in the EEAS (External Action service), EU Delegations, Representations and Embassies with an operational set of tools to be used in relations with third-countries. It is designed to protect all individual believers and religious communities.


Action and more effective mechanisms were urgently needed given the systematic and increasing violations of freedom of religion by some governments and non-state actors, in a number of countries of the world.


Therefore COMECE has been advocating for many years for the EU to take action in order to effectively protect Religious freedom. COMECE started in 2010 by publishing a Memorandum which contained 11 recommendations on religious Freedom; followed by a series of Conferences in the EU Parliament on Religious persecution; and more recently in the EU Commission on the occasion of the COMECE-CEC Dialogue Seminar on religious Freedom (April 2012). The Churches have always fully supported the increase of the EEAS potential in this regard and encouraged the EEAS to develop a ‘Toolkit’ containing measures and instruments to counter Religious Freedom violations in the world and offered their expertise in the field.


Although these Guidelines contain certain detailed instruments (i.e implementation of Freedom of Expression §32), they still remain quite general and some specific matters might require greater precision (i.e Education §41). Therefore a future review of these Religious Freedom Guidelines might follow the recommendation of the EU Parliament of last June 13 on the following aspects:


-The reinforcement of the Collective dimension of Religious freedom

The EU institutions should ensure that it is not simply an individualistic interpretation of this fundamental right which is promoted but that this is also broadened out so as to fully include its social and institutional dimension;


- The recognition of the full right of parents to educate their children according to their religious beliefs as provided for by international law;


- a more balanced approach to the principle non discrimination with sensitivity to the impact the application of this principle might have on religious freedom.



Contact: Johanna Touzel, COMECE Spokesperson and Press Officer Tel+32 (0)2 235 05 15


COMECE is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and comprises 26 Bishops representing all Member States of the EU. For more than thirty years now, COMECE has been accompanying the process of European integration, and offering its reflections. COMECE is now a partner of the EU institutions in the dialogue foreseen by Article 17 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.


Alessandro Di Maio

Communications Officer E-mail Kontakt Tel.: +32 2 235 05 15
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