Answer given by Vice-President Timmermans on behalf of the Commission
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter applies to the EU institutions and to the Member States where they are acting in implementation of EC law.
The recent horrifying attacks in Paris have shown once more that this freedom, which is paramount in a democratic society, must not be scaled back in the face of extremists. Violence and threats — whether exercised by terrorists, extremists or the state — are never an acceptable reaction to the exercise by others of their freedom of expression and must be firmly condemned. Any protests must be exercised through peaceful and legal means.
The European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that freedom of expression extends to information and ideas that may ‘offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population’. The Commission believes that this may include criticism of religion, ideology, beliefs, institutions, including in the form of satire.
The Commission is active in supporting dialogue between different actors, with a view to contributing to more open, tolerant and cohesive European societies. The first Commission Annual Fundamental Rights Colloquium, scheduled for 1-2 October 2015, will be dedicated precisely to this matter.