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EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief

The EU adopted the Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief on 24 June 2013.

The guidelines are based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination and universality and are intended to provide practical guidance to officials of the EU and Member States in their relations with third countries and with international and civil society organisations.

The guidelines reaffirm that it is up to each individual State to ensure that its legal system guarantees freedom of religion or belief and to put in place “effective measures” to prevent or sanction any violations. The EU and its Member States should focus on:

  • fighting against acts of violence on the ground of religion or belief;
  • promoting freedom of expression;
  • promoting respect for diversity and tolerance;
  • fighting against direct and indirect discrimination; notably by implementing non-discriminatory legislation;
  • supporting freedom to change or leave one’s religion or belief;
  • supporting the right to manifest religion or belief;
  • supporting and protecting human rights defenders including support for individual cases; and
  • supporting and engaging with civil society, including religious associations, non-confessional and philosophical organisations.

The guidelines clarify the EU’s own position of neutrality towards religion or belief, not aligning itself with any specific view but upholding the individual’s right of conscience to choose, changeor abandon a conviction. Moreover, the priorities are of equal importance.

The guidelines recommend action to be taken at different levels. At the local level, EU missions (i.e. EU delegations and Member States Embassies and Consulates) will be responsible for monitoring, assessing and reporting on these priorities. When necessary, the EU and its Member States should promote freedom of religion or belief during their official visits to third countries. At the multilateral level, the EU will continue to participate actively in the UN agenda. In practice, the guidelines call for using external and thematic financial instruments by providing funding to human rights defender projects, especially capacity building and mediation training projects.

To access the Guidelines click here.