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Parliamentary questions
PDF 35kWORD 28k
1 February 2011
Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Ashton on behalf of the Commission
Question reference: E-9887/2010

The EU is strongly attached to freedom of religion or belief and regularly raises the issue in bilateral and multilateral contexts. On the occasion of her visit to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity on the eve of Orthodox Christmas, the High Representative/Vice President reiterated the need for all religious groups around the world to gather and worship freely and stressed that the EU condemned all forms of intolerance and violence against persons because of their religion or belief. In her address to the Parliament on 19 January 2011, the High Representative/Vice President underlined that recent terrorist attacks in Iraq against Christians are unacceptable, perpetrated by extremists with an agenda of intolerance that must be condemned and resisted.

On bilateral level the EU voices its concerns regarding religious freedom and related intolerance and discrimination via démarches, public statements and Council Conclusions.

The November 2009 General Affairs Council adopted conclusions underlining the EU’s strong attachment to freedom of religion or belief, and tasked the EU bodies to evaluate existing initiatives and elaborate further proposals for EU action in this regard. A comprehensive EU action plan on this issue has been developed and is being implemented. The Foreign Affairs Council on 31 January 2011 will revert to the issue.

The EU also continues to play an active role on the issue in the multilateral forums, in particular the United Nations General Assembly. Every year the EU leads a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on ‘Elimination of all forms of intolerance or discrimination based on religion or belief’. In its last resolution adopted by consensus on 21 December 2010, the General Assembly condemned all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief as well as recognised with deep concern the overall rise in instances of intolerance and violence, regardless of the actors, directed against members of many religious and other communities in various parts of the world.

The EU is also very active in promoting inter-society dialogue on freedom of religion or belief through different events such as meetings between like-minded groupings (the last one took place in Paris on 17 December 2010) or other international seminars like the one on Christian minorities at the European University Institute in Florence due to take place in the first half of 2011. The EU also contributed to the latest COMECE-EKD-KAS(1) Seminar on ‘Islam, Christianity and Europe — Freedom of Religion in the European Neighbourhood: What Role for Religious Actors and EU External Action?’ which took place on 11 October 2010.

As for Iraq, the European Union is deeply concerned about the continuing violence, including against persons belonging to minorities and follows developments in Iraq very closely.

Following the High Representative/Vice-President’s condemnation of the attacks, the Foreign Affairs Council addressed the issue of violence against religious minorities in general and in Iraq in particular at its meeting in November and adopted conclusions.

In its bilateral dialogue with Iraq, the European Union frequently voices its human rights concerns, including on freedom of religion or belief and elimination of all forms of discrimination and intolerance.

A substantial proportion of EU support has gone to the most vulnerable Iraqis. Many of them are — for obvious reasons — internally displaced, and now live in areas with dense minority group populations. EU assistance has ranged from work to ensure protection and promotion of their human rights, to the rehabilitation of schools in an area like Nineveh, which has a large Christian population. Humanitarian assistance also continues to reach the most vulnerable inside and outside Iraq.

The EU assistance provided is based on the principles of non-discrimination and impartiality and targets the most vulnerable people, wherever they live. In all EU programmes, their needs are integrated in actions covering all sectors. The same principle applies to the Joint Strategy Paper 2011‑13 where the EU intervention in the focal sectors of good governance and basic services will be underpinned by the cross-cutting issues like human rights and protection of vulnerable groups.

(1)Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community — Konrad Adenauer Stiftung — Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland.

Aviso jurídico - Política de privacidad