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|Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union|
|Assumed office |
6 Mai 2016
|European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth|
1 January 2007 – 1 October 2009
|European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism|
22 November 2004 – 1 January 2007
Ján Figeľ (born 20 January 1960 in Čaklov, Slovakia) is a Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the EU appointed by the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on 6 May 2016. As a Special Envoy, he serves as a Special Adviser to the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. This mandate was renewed by the European Commission until 5 May 2019.
Figeľ was European Commissioner for Education, Training & Culture from 2004 to 2009. His area of responsibility also covered sport, youth, and relations with civil society. He was also Minister of Transport and the First Deputy-Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic from 2010 to 2012.
Figeľ was chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) from 19 September 2009 until 15 March 2016, when he resigned as party leader following unsuccessful general elections when KDH took just 4.96 percent of the vote and, as a result, Christian Democrats did not win any seats in the parliament for the first time since they were established in 1990 and paid the price for not passing the baton to a new generation. Furthermore, Figeľ created a controversy with an electoral campaign focusing on anti immigration and nationalist rhetoric with a slogan about “white Slovakia”.
Born in Čaklov, Figeľ studied power electronics at the Technical University of Košice for five years, beginning in 1978. During his studies, he was Faculty chairman of the Socialist Youth Union, a youth Marxist-Leninist organization of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. From 1983 he worked as a research and development scientist for ZPA Prešov. He joined the conservative Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) in 1990 and was elected to the National Council of the Slovak Republic in 1992, serving on its Foreign Affairs Committee and becoming a member of Slovakia's delegation to the Council of Europe a year later.
In 1998 Figeľ left his parliamentary seat and was appointed State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unlike most of his colleagues in the European Commission, he never rose to a cabinet-level position, but led Slovakia's accession negotiations with the European Union until 2003. He also represented the Slovak government in the European Convention which drafted the European Constitution. He returned to the National Council in 2002 where he chaired its Foreign Affairs Committee, stepping down in 2004 to take up his Commission post.
Figeľ served briefly in the Prodi Commission. From Slovakia's accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004 to the confirmation of the Barroso Commission later that year he jointly held the Enterprise and Information Society portfolio, sharing his role for most of that period with the Finnish appointee Olli Rehn, also new to the job. The Slovak government nominated Figeľ for the incoming Barroso Commission which took office on 22 November 2004. His appointment to the Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism portfolio was regarded as something of a disappointment. Figeľ himself said that the role was not his "primary choice", but he accepted it "as a challenge".
From 1 January 2007, in the enlarged Barroso Commission after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, responsibility for multilingualism is transferred to Commissioner for Multilingualism, Romanian Leonard Orban.
Questioned by the European Parliament, Figeľ said that the goal of a true European labour market would require more investment in education, professional training, mobility, and simpler Europe-wide acknowledgment of qualifications. He said that the promotion of education was vital to the aims set out in the Lisbon Strategy.
Figeľ announced his resignation from the Commission on 21 September 2009, following his election as the leader of Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia. He was replaced by Maroš Šefčovič on 1 October 2009. From 2010 to 2012 he was a Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport, Construction and Regional Development.
Controversy regarding Figeľ's apartment
In autumn 2010, Slovak media raised controversy regarding Figeľ's generous EU perks making him a politician with best revenues in Slovakia. Furthermore, Slovak daily newspaper SME recalled that Figeľ in 2001, while Bratislava's Old City district Mayor was his party colleague Andrej Ďurkovský accepted from this Bratislava district a social apartment in downtown Bratislava for almost nothing (156 sq meters for 1.813 €). Figeľ has defended this transaction as legal and justified by his service to the country as EU Chief Negotiator and his family needs. Nevertheless, these allegations pushed Figeľ to declare his intention to offer his apartment to a charity endowment. Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová said that if Figeľ had taken any different course of action it would have harmed the whole ruling coalition, since she could have not used the justification employed by her predecessor Robert Fico who dismissed scandals connected to his coalition partners by saying that they were their own business.
Legitimacy of his Ph.D.
On 24 August 2012 Science Insider reported that he "is facing an official inquiry into the legitimacy of his Ph.D., awarded while he was in office."
Figeľ received a Ph.D. title in the field of social work at St Elizabeth’s School of Medicine and Social Work in Bratislava, a university-level private academic institution, in 2007. The majority of the thesis was copied from a publication he edited in 2003 with Slovak diplomat Miroslav Adamiš, “Slovakia on the Road to the European Union – Chapters and Contexts”, in which they described the country’s EU accession process. The rector of St Elizabeth’s School, Vladimír Krčméry, said that they took into consideration Figeľ’s position and had granted Figeľ a Ph.D. mainly due to the fact that he was at the time serving as a European commissioner.
Figeľ was appointed the first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union by president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on May 6, 2016. The European Parliament supported and had called for this initiative in its Resolution of 4 February 2016. Given the importance of promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief outside the EU in the context of the European Union's dialogue and assistance programmes with third countries, the Special Envoy serves as Special Adviser to the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica.
In January 2018, during his visit to Pakistan, Figeľ's claim that the Asia Bibi case is directly linked to the outcome of negotiations and renewal of an EU-Pakistan preferential tariffs agreement GSP+ raised controversy, as it was later demonstrated as a false claim. Even though Figeľ later deleted his views on the topic published in February 2018 on his personal blog, his claim, which was not aligned to the official position of the EU, raised many concerns among Pakistani Christian community. The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) Chairman Wilson Chowdhry said during a seminar in the European Parliament on 11 April 2018 that “[the BPCA] is embarrassed that it ever believed Jan Figel, special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, who told the Pakistani government that the outcome of Bibi's case is going to be directly linked to trade favors the EU bestows upon Pakistan.”
- "Ján Figeľ, EU Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion". Ján Figeľ, EU Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion (in French). Retrieved 2018-08-13.
- "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - President Juncker appoints the first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union". europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
- "Special advisers to the European Commission". 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
- "Meeting between Rogge and Figeľ on European Council Declaration". Webwire. 26 January 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
- Tim Haughton; Darina Malova; Kevin Deegan-Krause (2016-03-09). "Slovakia's newly elected parliament is dramatically different and pretty much the same". Retrieved 2018-08-24.
- Michaela Terenzani – Stanková. "EC representative leaves post for KDH chair – The Slovak Spectator". Spectator.sme.sk. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
- "Ministrom dopravy bude Figeľ, vnútro povedie Lipšic". Pravda.sk (in Slovak). 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "EU-Kommissar für Bildung erschwindelt Doktortitel" (in German). 2012-08-21. Retrieved 2018-08-24.
- "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - President Juncker appoints the first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union". europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Texts adopted - Thursday, 4 February 2016 - Systematic mass murder of religious minorities by ISIS - P8_TA(2016)0051". www.europarl.europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
|New office|| Slovak European Commissioner
| European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
Served alongside: Erkki Liikanen, Olli Rehn
as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry
as European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
as European Commissioner for Education and Culture
| European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism
as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth
as European Commissioner for Multilingualism
as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism
| European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth