Thank you Mr. Borghezio for continued support.


Question for written answer E-009701/2011to the CommissionRule 117

Mario Borghezio (EFD)

Subject:EU action to defend religious freedom of Coptic Christians


Across the world, Coptic Christians are protesting ever more loudly against the killings which continue to take place in Egypt and which over recent days have claimed dozens of lives.

In contrast, the European institutions are almost completely silent on the subject. Does the Commission not intend to take concrete and decisive steps to remind the Egyptian Government of its duty to protect the Coptic Christian minority, prevent any acts of violence from being perpetrated against its members and ensure that they are able fully to exercise their right to religious freedom?










Answer given by High Representative/Vice President Ashton

on behalf of the Commission




Freedom of religion or belief is a universal human right which needs to be protected everywhere and for everyone. The EU has firmly responded to the increasing number of acts of religious intolerance and discrimination across the world. The February Foreign Affairs Council conclusions reiterated the EU’s serious concern and condemnation over any intolerance, discrimination or violence as epitomised by recent violence and acts of terrorism, in various countries, against Christians and their places of worship, Muslim pilgrims and other religious communities. The rights of persons belonging to religious minorities in Egypt must be fully taken into account during the post-Mubarak transition in order to achieve a truly democratic and pluralistic society.


All religious minorities should have a fair place in the future of Egypt and in the transition process leading to it. The EU expects that the policies implemented by the current and forthcoming Egyptian Government are in line with the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion and belief, as enshrined in the Association Agreement and the Action Plan concluded with Egypt.


The new approach of the European Neighbourhood Policy will allow differentiation among partner countries and will be based on mutual accountability, conditionality and the "more for more" principle. In this respect, freedom of religion or belief will be one of the key criteria to assess the progress made by Egypt as regards human rights and democracy to adjust the level of EU aid accordingly. In this context, the EU at Headquarters and locally will continue to closely follow the situation of the religious minorities in Egypt and will have a central role in this assessment.


Sectarian violence has been strongly condemned in two statements by the High Representative/ Vice President issued on 14 March 2011 and 9 May 2011 in which the Egyptian authorities are urged to bring those responsible to justice before civilian courts. These concerns were also directly communicated to the Head of the Military Council Tantawi, by the High Representative/ Vice President during her visit to Egypt on 14 March 2011 and by the President of the Commission when he visited the country on 14 July 2011.


No official information is available on the number of Coptic Egyptians who have left Egypt during the last months; migration data collection by the Member States does not cover the religion of the migrants.


As regards the tragic clashes which occurred on Sunday 9 October 2011 between the Army and demonstrators, they constitute an unacceptable blow on the Egyptian people’s strive for democracy and go completely against the original spirit of the Tahrir square movement that fought for the human rights of all Egyptians, notwithstanding ethnic and religious backgrounds. The High Representative/ Vice President immediately reacted and issued a statement on 10 October 2011, calling for calm and restraint and asking for an investigation so that those responsible for the violence can be brought to justice.


The decisions taken by the Egyptian authorities to launch an investigation and to set up a Fact-Finding Commission are positive developments. The EU will keep the pressure on the Egyptian administration to ensure that the investigation on the Maspero events will be carried out independently and will lead to the identification and condemnation of the culprits.


To address sectarian tensions, the Egyptian authorities must do their utmost to meet the expectations of the religious minorities and deliver at the earliest opportunity a unified law on the building of places of worship which would allow the Christians and the Muslims to be treated on an equal basis. In the meantime, the EU looks forward to seeing the entry into force of two important pieces of legislation promised by the Egyptian Government after the Maspero events: 1) a decree aiming at legalizing the status of places of worship previously built without proper documentation or permits and 2) substantial amendments to Egypt’s Penal Code to enforce the principle of Non-Discrimination.

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