The Council of the European Union adopted in 24 June 2013 a set of Guidelines in the area of human rights of paramount importance: EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief (FORB). It is a part of the set of nine other guidelines the EU has on the death penalty, torture, children in armed conflict, human rights defenders, rights of the child, violence against women, promotion of international humanitarian law, human rights dialogues with third countries and LGBTI rights.
In the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief (FORB), the EU reiterates the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief as a fundamental right of every human being. The EU Guidelines underlines the right of all persons to manifest their religion or belief either individually or in community with others - persons who change or leave their religion or belief, as well as persons holding non-theistic or atheistic beliefs should be equally protected, as well as people who do not profess any religion or belief.
In line with universal and European human rights standards, the EU and its Member States are committed to respecting, protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief within their borders. With these Guidelines, the EU also reaffirms its determination to promote in its external human rights policy, freedom of religion or belief as a right to be exercised by everyone everywhere. The Guidelines explain what the international human rights standards on FORB are and they give clear political lines to officials of EU institutions and EU Member States. They also provide officials with practical guidance on how to seek to prevent violations of FORB in order to promote and protect freedom of religion or belief in the EU's external action. EU missions (EU Delegations and Member States Embassies and Consulates) play a key role in an early warning system, they will monitor respect for freedom of religion or belief and identify and report on situations of concern in third countries. The EU will raise freedom of religion or belief in appropriate high-level contacts and will encourage partner countries and regional organisations in political dialogues to accede to and implement relevant international instruments. The EU is furthermore committed to ensure that FORB remains prominently on the UN agenda and it will further strengthen its cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on FORB.
When the EU launched the Common Foreign and Security Policy ten years ago, it placed Human Rights at the heart of this policy. This stemmed from our conviction that respecting and promoting the rule of law as well as fundamental rights and freedoms not only defines the EU but is also in our interest. The European Security Strategy, adopted in 2003 and reviewed in 2008, states clearly that “spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international order." An integral part of our Human Rights Policy is a series of Guidelines on issues of importance to the Union. These Guidelines are practical tools to help EU representations in the field better advance our policy.
Read the Guidelines here.
Source: EU Delegation to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva.