New EU guidelines on religious freedom welcomed

The European Evangelical Alliance has welcomed the European Union's adoption of guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion. 

The guidelines were adopted by the foreign ministers of all 27 EU member states at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.  

They were developed in consultation with the European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID), founded in 2006 by the EEA, Open Doors International and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. 

The focus of the guidelines is on the external policy of the European Union related to understanding, monitoring and promoting freedom of religion or belief, and raising awareness of this right in non-EU countries.

The EEA said the guidelines would strengthen the EU's capacity to defend religious freedom by addressing the causes of violations and formulating responses.  

Victims of religious freedom violations will also be in a stronger position to ask EU delegations and member state embassies to intervene on their behalf.  

Where violations have occurred, the guidelines include the possibility of suspending cooperation and financial assistance.

Christel Lamère Ngnambi, EEA's Brussels representative and board member of EPRID, said the guidelines were an example of successful working together between civil society organisations and public institutions.

"Freedom of religion or belief is a litmus test for other human rights and fundamental freedoms," he said.

"It does not finally depend on the favours of the state and its officials, or the changing will of majorities. Likewise, it is far more than freedom for the religious. It is a cor right for all human beings that cannot in any instance be taken from them altogether."