Wien, 10. December 2012 Press release

Spindelegger: "Protection of religious minorities is a key concern of Austria's human rights policy"

Vice-Chancellor pressing for early adoption of EU guidelines on freedom of religion

Vienna, 10 December 2012 – “Freedom of religion and the protection of religious minorities are central elements of Austria's human rights policy", Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said on the occasion of an experts' seminar on the freedom of religion held in Brussels today. Austria had initiated this seminar to mark today's International Human Rights Day. The seminar falls into line with Austria's efforts to firmly root the freedom of religion in the EU's foreign relations policy. The seminar was attended, among others, by the European Union's newly appointed Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi as well as experts of the EU Foreign Service and representatives of the European Parliament and the civil society.

"The abuse of religion whenever religion is exploited as a justification for violence and discrimination is unacceptable. We have to vigorously counteract the increase in religiously motivated conflicts and violent attacks against members of religious minorities”, Spindelegger continued. "The European Union, too, will have to pull its weight: In June, following up on Austria's request, the EU decided to establish guidelines on the freedom of religion and belief. With these guidelines, the issue would become firmly rooted in the EU's human rights policy. It is now important to keep up the pressure so that meaningful guidelines can be defined and soon adopted."

"The events in the Arab World, in particular, remind us that freedom of religion of all citizens is also decisive for peace and security within a society. Religious minorities will therefore have to be involved in the redesign of the societies that is currently taking place in many Arab countries right from the beginning. The new guidelines will have to take account of this collective dimension of the freedom of religion, too. I consider it highly important that an effective mechanism for the prevention of religiously motivated conflicts is included in these guidelines", the Foreign Minister said.

"We take our human rights obligations very seriously and will continue to make use of all means available to us to protect religious minorities and the freedom of religion and belief by way of dialogue and by facilitating tolerance, pluralism and mutual respect", Spindelegger concluded.

Contact:
Federal Ministry for
European and International Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3739, 3262, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213
e-mail: abti3(at)bmeia.gv.at