Brussels, 21 December 2000
Commission proposes action to combat trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of children
The Commission today proposed a package of measures to combat trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children, as requested by European leaders at the Tampere summit. Today's Communication (an initiative of Antonio Vitorino in association with Anna Diamantopoulou), sets out elements for a comprehensive strategy to tackle these appalling and growing menaces. Alongside the Communication, the Commission presents two proposals for framework decisions on approximation of national criminal law and addressing criminal procedures. These framework decisions will provide emphatic legal protection for children as well as persons being trafficked into and within the European Union for exploitative purposes.
Announcing today's proposals, Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said : 'The decisions we propose today will be an important step towards eradicating from Europe the unscrupulous practices of trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. It is appalling that in the Europe of the 21st century such barbaric practices are still widespread - even increasing. Because of their very nature these problems recognise no national boundaries. They infect the whole of Europe, and only a European solution can effectively combat them. I now call upon the Council to demonstrate its commitment to step up the fight against these violations of human rights and human dignity by swiftly approving the measures we have proposed.'
Anna Diamantopoulou said : 'The EU is seeking to bring greater visibility to these modern forms of slavery and to provide a legal framework. It is estimated that between 700.000 to 2 million women and girls each year are subjected to trafficking worldwide. In the EU alone, this figure is estimated at 500.000. But we must also tackle the root causes of trafficking : poverty, unemployment and gender discrimination'.
Today's proposals are set out in a Commission Communication and two associated draft framework decisions : one on combating trafficking in human beings and one on combating sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Both decisions aim to develop effective co-operation across the European Union in judicial procedures and law enforcement. The Commission believes that common definitions and sanctions will make an important contribution to achieving this objective. They would provide a common approach on criminal law and a further improvements to law enforcement and judicial co-operation between Member States.
The proposed measures to tackle trafficking in human beings include common definitions of two criminal offences : trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation ; and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The definitions of both offences reflect the United Nations protocol 'To Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children', recently signed by the Commission at the Palermo High-level Conference for the UN Convention against Transnational Organised crime..
The Proposals to fight the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography include :
Common definitions of three criminal offences : child prostitution, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (including child pornography on the Internet).
Both proposals provide common sanctions which are effective, proportionate and dissuasive, including by terms of imprisonment.:
In addition to common definitions and sanctions, both proposals address the liability of legal persons, including sanctions, jurisdiction and prosecution. They also provide for the protection of victims in judicial procedures and an enhanced co-operation between Member States.
Due to the international nature of the offences addressed by these proposals, it is particularly important that Member States establish jurisdiction and ensure prosecution when a person is suspected of having committed an offence in a country other than his own. This is particularly vital in order to effectively combat child sex tourism.
Finally, the Commission has agreed that the interests of victims should be safeguarded during legal proceedings. The Commission will therefore put forward proposals next year for temporary permits of stay for victims of trafficking who are prepared to help the judicial authorities.