The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) urges the European Commission to renew the mandate of the Special Envoy on FoRB outside the EU.
Dr Ján Figel was appointed the European Commission’s first Special Envoy for the promotion of FoRB outside the EU, following a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in February 2016.
The mandate has served as a focal point for promoting FoRB outside the EU, with Dr Figel working alongside the European External Action Service, civil society, religious leaders and governments. Dr Figel has also served as Special Adviser to the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development and he has worked extensively with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB, and the UN Deputy Secretary General responsible for Genocide Prevention, as well as his counterparts in European governments and in the US.
The unique position of the EU Special Envoy has enabled him to be viewed as a neutral broker by many countries. This fact has been instrumental in helping to foster dialogue and make effective interventions. For example, in assisting with the release of Asia Bibi, who spent years on death row in Pakistan due to an unfounded blasphemy allegation. Czech national Petr Jašek, who was jailed alongside two Sudanese pastors and a FoRB activist, also acknowledged Dr Figel’s important role in securing his freedom.
The Special Envoy has demonstrated how FoRB can be promoted and protected effectively through the European Union’s external action. This helps to explains why, on 15 January 2019, the European Parliament renewed its support for the Special Envoy in its resolution on the “EU guidelines and the mandate of the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion outside the European Union”.
Dr. Figel’s mandate has now expired. The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief urges the European Commission to renew his mandate in order to protect and promote FoRB outside the EU.
In July 2020 the EU Commission announced it will renew the position of the Special Envoy on religious freedom only weeks after it had said it would not do so for the foreseeable future.