EU finally appoints new religion freedom special envoy
The Cypriot Christos Stylianides has experience in the field of human aid. The EU confirmed the position ten months after announcing the appointment.
BRUSSELS · 06 MAY 2021 · 10:34 CET
The European Commission has announced the appointment of its new Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) outside the European Union.
Christos Stylianides will be in charge of using the European Union’s ‘soft power’ to help produce changes in the protection of religious minorities in other places of the world. The Cypriot has previously served as a EU Commissioner in the areas of human aid and crisis management.
As the European Commission’s Vice-President, Margaritis Schinas, announced the appointment on 6 May, he assured that this new appointment confirmed that the European Union is “determined to protect all freedoms and beliefs”.
Freedom of religion or belief is under attack in many parts of the world. Today’s appointment of @StylianidesEU as Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of relation or belief shows we are determined to protect the rights of all faiths and beliefs. Welcome to the team Χρήστο!
— Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) May 5, 2021
For over half a year, the new EU administration led by Ursula von der Leyen gave the impression that having a Special Envoy of FoRB was no longer seen as a priority. Among those asking to renew this position was the European Evangelical Alliance, whose Brussels representative, Arie de Pater, told Evangelical Focus in July 2020: “Worldwide, FoRB is under threat and it is not really getting any better. Across the globe, both religious and non-religious groups are facing limitations of their freedom. It is important that the EU leads by example”.
Today, @MargSchinas eventually announced the new EU Special Envoy for the promotion of FoRB outside the EU. We warmly welcome @StylianidesEU and wish him all the best. Freedom of Religion or Belief is a precious human right for all!
— EEA | Arie de Pater (@ariedep) May 5, 2021
Ursula von der Leyen’s Vice-President announced they would “renew the function” a week later. Religious freedom organisations such as the EPRID (European Platform Against Religious Intolerance and Discrimination) celebrated the decision, and the spokesperson of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, admitted he and other Members of the European Parliament had “pushed for it”. But then, the clock seemed to stop again.
It is ten months later, that the EU Commission finally announces the appointment of Christos Stylianides.
As shown by international religious freedom rankings elaborated by groups such as the US Commission for International Religious Freedom or the Open Doors World Watch List, the task to help promote religious freedom around the world is huge.