At the OSCE HDIM 2014 Soteria International presented several situations where volunteer work is abusively prosecuted as human trafficking and labour exploitation, when undertaken by spiritual seekers. Since the side event in Warszaw, the topic has been further highlighted in interreligious roundtable discussions in Brussels.
In January 2015 Soteria International composed a letter signed by 36 NGOs and indiviuals, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners addressed to the European Commission. The letter presented briefly cases from Italy, Germany and Romania.
The First Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Frans Timmermans, answered in the begining of March 2015 making reference of the principle of subsidiarity.
„ ... Volunteering is indeed an important way for everyone to engage in society and make a
difference in the lives of others. This is why the European Union concretely supports
opportunities for voluntary work with a transnational dimension, for example through the
European Voluntary Service or the EU Aid Volunteers initiative.
In line with the principle of subsidiarity, it is however for each Member State to regulate
volunteering in national context as they deem it relevant. EU action is therefore limited to the
provision of opportunities such as the European Voluntary Service or the EU Aid Volunteers
or of conditions facilitating transnational mobility of young volunteers. ... ”
The principle of subsidiarity aims at determining the level of intervention that is most relevant in the areas of competences shared between the EU and the Member States. This may concern action at European, national or local levels. In all cases, the EU may only intervene if it is able to act more effectively than Member States. The principle of subsidiarity also aims at bringing the EU and its citizens closer by guaranteeing that action is taken at local level where it proves to be necessary. However, the principle of subsidiarity does not mean that action must always be taken at the level that is closest to the citizen.
We still consider the European Commission to be ultimately responsible for the member states to act in accordance with the fundamental human rights, understanding and respecting the freedom of reigious and believe of their citizens, including in the gropus practicing the volunteer work.
We welcome the broad interreligious collaboration to highlight and hinder this for of violation of freedom of religion and belief. Soteria International continues the research and would welcome any information regarding spiritual volontary work being hindered or persecuted.