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Commissioner highlights EU commitment towards religious freedoms

The European Commission is committed to protecting the freedoms of thought, expression and religion as fundamental rights, Helena Dalli, EU commissioner for equality, told a plenary session of the European Parliament late on Monday.

In a debate on the subject, Dalli also confirmed the commission’s staunch position against racism, discrimination or any kind of religious intolerance. The EU condemns abuse of laws penalising blasphemy and non-believers are also entitled to protection, she added.

In recent years, the commission has launched infringement procedures against countries that fail to adopt the EU’s directives concerning religious faith and affiliation, while the body supports dialogue between religions as it leads to more inclusive societies and promotes integration, she said.

Gyorgy Holvenyi, Hungary’s Christian Democrat MEP, noted that practising religion was internationally recognised as a fundamental human right. He said, however, that while a European Parliamentary report adopted in January 2019 established a special envoy for freedom of religion outside the EU, the community had not appointed anyone to the post as yet. “This could convey the negative message that Europe shows no solidarity with those stripped of their rights,” he said.

“The EU will only be really credible if it grants meaningful powers to the post,” he said. “Until a special envoy is appointed and given suitable powers, the EU will be spreading a culture of indifference towards those suffering,” Holvenyi added.

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