Speaking at the Vatican on Friday (6 May) on the occasion of the award of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis, President Jean-Claude Juncker announced his decision to appoint Ján Figeľ as the first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union.
Ján Figeľ was European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth in 2004-2009 and First Deputy-Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic in 2010 – 2012.
He assumes his new role for an initial mandate of one year. The one-year mandate is renewable.
“Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental right which is part of the foundation of the European Union,” President Juncker said. “The persistent persecution of religious and ethnic minorities makes protecting and promoting this freedom inside and outside the EU all the more essential.”
The European Parliament supports and has called for this initiative in its Resolution of 4 February 2016. Given the importance of promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief outside the EU in the context of the European Union’s dialogue and assistance programmes with third countries, the Special Envoy will serve as Special Adviser to the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica.
As part of his mission, Ján Figeľ will present a report in the context of the on-going dialogue between the Commission and churches and religious associations or communities, which is led by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans.
The Brussels Times (Source: European Commission)