At a conference held in Brussels on February, 12 the European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief (EPWG), co-chaired by MEPs Peter van Dalen (ECR) and Dennis de Jong (GUE/NGL), presented its first annual report on freedom of religion in the world. The report takes stock of developments regarding religious freedom and concludes that this human right is increasingly violated, around the globe. The report proposes to give the promotion of religious freedom a more prominent place in EU foreign policy. It furthermore makes recommendations for EU action in case of fifteen countries where the situation is particularly dire.
The report was presented at a conference jointly organised with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, who also presented their annual report.
(NHC:İÖG The Report lists Turkey as a country of particular concern. The criteria used for the selection of countries of particular concern are the severity of freedom of religion or belief violations, frequency of the violations and the relationship between the EU and the third country.)
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, gave the keynote speech.
The conference welcomed the adoption of EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, by the EU Member States last year. Participants agreed that this was a major step, however, the process of ensuring a thorough implementation has only just begun. Also, complementing measures were needed.
Peter van Dalen said:“Today is a sad day as right now many millions of people are bullied, discriminated, persecuted and even killed for their faith. I hope that our work may contribute towards improving this situation.”
“We made several recommendations on specific countries. On Egypt for example, we would like the EU to unfreeze the aid pledged, but tie it to human rights conditions; Coptic Christians must be able to freely and safely practise their faith. On Pakistan, we demand that hate speech be scrapped from school books, in particular where they are subsidized by the EU! On India, we’d like to see the states who have introduced anti-conversion legislation, to repeal those provisions.”
Dennis de Jong said: “I am grateful for the co-operation we developed with the EEAS on the EU Guidelines. However, we now need to follow this up through an informal dialogue on the toolkit which will serve as an instrument for embassies and EU delegations to implement the Guidelines.”
“Similarly, we need to further develop our dialogue with the EEAS also on the countries of concern: we identified many such countries and we now have to focus on the instruments the EU and the Member States have to help to change the situation in these countries.”
Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt said: “I see an enormous practical potential in the EU Guidelines, in harnessing the existing capacities of the EU and its Member States to make Freedom of Religion or Belief a reality. I value the Working Group’s strategic role in promoting the Guidelines and their efficient implementation. The European Parliament would be well advised to upgrade the working group to an intergroup.”
The report can be viewed here: http://www.religiousfreedom.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/EPWG-2013-Report-Final-for-printing.pdf