Freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is a fundamental right to which everyone should be entitled, everywhere, and a principle to which the European Union adheres. This right is challenged and restricted in many parts of the world. Following a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in February 2016, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker created the function of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU and appointed Ján Figeľ to this role in May 2016.
The "EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief" approved by the EU Member States in 2013 provide the policy framework for the Special Envoy's mandate. They represent the essential tool to support FoRB in EU external relations and in EU international cooperation and development.
In his work the Special Envoy is committed to an approach based on the protection of all human rights including freedom of religion or belief, the right to believe or not to believe.
Given the importance of protecting and promoting FoRB in the world in the framework of EU's dialogues and assistance programs in third countries, the Special Envoy serves as Special Adviser to the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. He works in close coordination with the European External Action Service. His third mandate was renewed and runs until May 2019.