Union faction leader Volker Kauder welcomes the… © Michael Kappeler
…Appointment of Jan Figel © Olivier Hoslet
Slovak politician Jan Figel is first EU special representative for religious freedom. CDU politicians in Berlin on Sunday welcomed the appointment of the Commissioner for Religious Affairs by EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
The latter had already announced it on Friday on the occasion of the awarding of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis in Rome.
Kauder: "Important signal"
Union faction leader Volker Kauder (CDU) spoke of an "important signal" to pay even more attention to the ie of religious freedom on the part of Europe. "Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental right that is part of the founding of the European Union," Juncker had said, "Even today, religious and ethnic minorities are persecuted, making it all the more important to protect and promote this freedom inside and outside the EU." He was confident that Figel would "ensure greater focus" and make sure the ie received the attention it deserved, Juncker said.
Figel was EU commissioner for education, culture and youth from 2004 to 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was first deputy prime minister of the Slovak Republic. The 56-year-old is to hold his new post for an initial period of one year.
Close cooperation sought
The chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Kauder, announced his intention to work closely with the EU Special Representative. The CDU/CSU parliamentary group has been working for years to protect religious freedom, also at the international level. In this context, Kauder pointed to religiously motivated conflicts in the Middle East, where the IS is terrorizing vast areas, as well as in Nigeria and Pakistan, where religious persecution is taking place.
The international community must stand up even more resolutely for religious freedom, he said. Above all, Europe must speak with a strong voice, the CDU politician demanded, referring to the recent papal call for the community of states to rediscover "its European soul".
The Union's representative for churches and religious communities, Franz Josef Jung (CDU), said that where religious freedom is threatened, other human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of the press are often threatened as well. The point is to stand up together in Europe for fundamental rights and freedoms and to defend basic European values.