Earlier today, the EJA’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Alex Benjamin, and its Political Affairs Advisor, Mr. Mihails Vorobeičiks-Mellers, have had the honour of once again meeting with Mr. Ján Figeľ, Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the EU. With the function itself created only in May 2016, Mr. Figeľ, former EU Commissioner and Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, became the first person to hold the position. The policy framework for the Special Envoy’s mandate is regulated by the “EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief”, which have been approved by the EU Member States back in 2013.
With the nearing European Parliament elections coming in May this year, the meeting took place at a time of notable significance, both to the EU – and wider Europe – as a whole and its Jewish community in particular. A number of topics have been touched upon, including the continuing rise in popularity of the more radical political ideologies on both ends of the political spectrum, possible – and, regrettably, nowadays observable – legal limitations to the freedom of religion, the European Commission’s role in promoting and protecting the respective rights of the EU’s inhabitants as well as the 5 red lines, which have been recently adopted during our conference back in November 2018.
Since Mr. Figeľ’s mandate encompasses the entirety of the world outside the Union, and the EJA is active throughout Europe, this meeting has been particularly important to us. Thus, during the discussion special attention has also been given to the EU candidate countries and other European states neighbouring the Union. Along with the present and future lives of the local Jewish communities, such topical issues as the legality of ritual slaughter and circumcision have been specifically raised.
We very much look forward to a continued dialogue and cooperation with Mr. Figeľ on issues of mutual interest and concern.