Figel to Become EU’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion

Figel to become special envoy for freedom of religion (photo by TASR)

Brussels, May 6 (TASR-correspondent) – Former leader of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Slovakia’s first EU commissioner (between 2004-09) Jan Figel will become the first ever special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union as of Friday, TASR learnt from diplomatic sources close to the EU executive that wished to remain anonymous.

The special envoy will serve as special adviser to Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica. The one-year mandate for the post is renewable.

European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker will officially announce the creation of the new post during the ceremonial presentation of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis later on Friday.

The decision to appoint Figel was made on Wednesday by the Collegium of Commissioners based on Juncker’s initiative. Juncker met Figel in late January to listen to his proposal to create the aforementioned post. He then discussed it with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who welcomed it.

Figel publicly presented the proposal at the European People’s Party (EPP) congress in Brussels on March 19, when his initiative was backed by EPP chief Joseph Daul. The idea also met with a positive response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The former KDH chair told TASR before the EPP congress that he had sent an official letter regarding the proposal to top EU officials, addressing not only Juncker but also European Council President Donald Tusk and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

Figel said in this context that “activities developed so far by the EU within the humanitarian and development or diplomatic field haven’t been sufficient in terms of effectively protecting believers”. He added that the creation of the special envoy post could make this agenda more visible and effective.