Long-time Belgian diplomat Frans van Daele is the new EU envoy for the protection of religious freedom outside the EU. The persistent efforts of Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann (KDH/ELS) were completed today with his appointment by the European Commission.
In the 21st century, people are persecuted for their faith or belief in as many as 62 countries of the world. Up to 67 percent of the planet’s population lives in countries where freedom of religion is seriously violated. This follows from the statistics of the pontifical foundation ACN – Aid to the Suffering Church, and only for the year 2021.
“Since the beginning of my mandate, I have constantly initiated calls for this deteriorating situation, attended countless meetings and negotiations, where I put pressure on the European Commission to finally appoint a new envoy for religious freedom outside the EU. This is a key office for the protection of religious freedom as one of the basic human freedoms, and therefore I am very happy about the appointment of the new ambassador and I wish him a lot of strength in his difficult task,” Miriam Lexmann explains her efforts and many months of intensive work.
One of the last calls for the appointment of an ambassador was prepared by Lexmann in September – it was signed by several dozen MEPs from various member countries. In a letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, she explains that persecution based on religion and belief contributes, among other things, to the migration crisis and other security challenges currently threatening the EU. The letter was followed by another series of negotiations and appeals.
“Promoting freedom of religion and belief is not only in line with the values that guide the EU’s external action, but is also a necessary and effective step in solving the global security challenges we face today as a community,” explains Miriam Lexmann, adding: “the appointment of a special envoy sends a clear signal to the world that the EU is committed to protecting victims of violence and persecution based on their religion or belief.”
“A difficult challenge for the new special envoy will also be to prevent the ideologization of the protection of religious freedom. I take intensive action against these trends,” concludes Lexmann.
Since 2016, Slovakian Ján Figeľ has been the first European envoy for religious freedom outside the EU. Subsequently, this post remained vacant for almost two years. Cypriot Chrystos Stylianides, who became an ambassador in May 2021, left for a ministerial post after four months, and since then this position has been vacant until today.
Photo: Valeriy Melnikov