Vienna, 24 June 2013 Press release

Spindelegger: "The EU must not tolerate the repression of religions"

Austrian Foreign Minister welcomes adoption of EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion

Vienna, 24.6.2013 – "I welcome the adoption of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the compilation of which was decided on an Austrian initiative. During recent times in particular we have observed a partly dramatic increase in religious conflicts and violent acts in many regions of the world. I am especially concerned about the highly problematic situation of Christians in Syria", Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said on the adoption of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the EU Council in Luxembourg today. The specification of this guideline document was agreed on a suggestion of Foreign Minister Spindelegger last year as part of the new EU human rights policy. A series of expert working meetings held in Austria supported the compilation work.

"Austria insisted that the EU should react to this disturbing trend. With these guidelines a transparent and effective tool for the protection of religious freedom and of religious minorities has been successfully created within the scope of the EU human rights policy. Religious freedom is a central pillar for the self-determined and free existence of every human being. Religion should never be abused as a means of reducing the human rights of others", Spindelegger said.

The new guidelines include clear instructions on action to promote inter-religious dialogue and for cooperation within civil society and they also offer the basis for the building of a comprehensive early warning mechanism within the EU. "The EU must not tolerate the repression of religions. Austria will take every care to see that the EU Guidelines are effectively implemented and that the freedom of religion is defended wherever this may be necessary. In the course of this work we will make use of our special experience in the area of promoting dialogue", the Foreign Minister concluded, pointing to the Vienna based International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue and also to the 5th Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilisations organised jointly by the Austrian Foreign Ministry and the United Nations last February, in which the freedom of religion was one of the three focal issues.

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