Many backed the re-establishment of the position. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and president of the Committee of the Bishops of the European Union (COMECE), noted that "in some countries, the religious oppression reached the level of a genocide" and for this reason "the European Union must continue to campaign for religious freedom, with a special envoy."
This semester, Germany is president of the Council of the European Union. So 135 German members of Parliament asked the government to use the position to press the EU to restore the Office.
Austrian members of Parliament signed a joint resolution with the same goal, and Jewish, Orthodox, and Muslim labels protested against the cancellation of the position.
It was then expected that the new European Commission was going to renew the mandate. It did not happen at first. In June, the Commission sent a letter to the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, a convenor of NGOs and individuals from any faith that works for religious freedom.
In the letter, the Commission confirmed that they would advance religious liberty according to the 2013 EU guidelines, which recognize the human right to freedom of religion and belief and understand that right under European law to mean that everyone is free to believe, not to believe, change their beliefs, publicly witness their beliefs and share their beliefs with others.
In the letter, the Commission also said that violations were going to be monitored by the EU delegation. The delegation and Eamon Gilmore, special representative for human rights, were supposed to report on the violations
After that, and all the protests, the Commission changed its mind and announced that the Special Envoy position for religious freedom was going to stay. Everything, by the way, is still suspended. We yet do not know who will be the next special envoy, and under which mandate.
There is another issue. The special envoy takes care of religious freedom outside of the EU, but religious liberty is at risk within the EU borders. There are many pieces of evidence that religious freedom is subtly dwindling in Europe.
Religious freedom inside the EU border is guaranteed under the EU charter of fundamental rights which is policed by the EU fundamental rights agency in Vienna. In addition, all the member states of the EU are constrained by fundamental democratic principles for which the commission can hold them to account if their laws don’t correspond.
And yet, there are cases that show that show that religious freedom is at stake.
The most recent cases came from Finland and Sweden.
Päivi Räsänen, a member of Finnish Parliament and former minister, faces four investigations after tweeting a Bible passage questioning that the Evangelical Church in Finland sponsored the Pride 2019.
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Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen, two Swedish midwives, appealed to the European Court for Human Rights because they found unemployed and could not apply for any job since they refused to help to perform abortions. The appeal was, however, declared inadmissible.
These are not the only cases, and it is not a new situation. It is worth remembering that the Holy See personally took the floor in 2013. Following the discussion of two cases at the European Court for Human Rights, the Holy See sent a note and widely explained why the religions are not "lawless areas" but instead "spaces of freedom."
The two cases that brought about the Holy See's note are Sindicatul' Pastoral cel bun' versus Romania and Fernandez Martinez versus Spain. Both of them provide food for thought even today.
The first case was about a labor union formed in 2008 by the clergy in an Orthodox Church diocese to defend their “professional, economic, social, and cultural interests” in their dealings with the church.
When the Romanian government registered the new union, the church sued, pointing out that her canons do not allow for unions and arguing that registration violated the principle of church autonomy.
A Romanian court agreed with the Church, and the union challenged the court's judgment in the European Court for Human Rights. The union argued that the decision not to register violated Article 11 of the European Convention, which grants a right to freedom of association.