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IP/07/55

Brussels, 17 January 2007

European Commission takes new initiatives in favour of missing and sexually exploited children

Vice-President Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Liberty and Security, and Viviane Reding, Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media, are in Paris today attending an international meeting on the issue of missing, abducted and sexually exploited children. Also present are the members of the Honorary Board of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), including Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians, Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden, Mrs Laura Bush, Mrs Lyudmila Putin and Mrs Margarida Sousa Uva-Barroso

Protecting children's rights is a priority of the European Commission, and the Paris meeting will help keep this topic at the forefront of the European agenda and move forward the implementation of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child.

"If Europe truly aspires to be an area of freedom and rights, it must serve as a guardian angel to our children", declared Vice-President Franco Frattini. "In particular, the 26 other Member States would do well to set up abduction alert systems, as France has done. Because child abductions are an international phenomenon, such a system at European level would be extremely useful. The European Commission is prepared to serve as a catalyst and initiate the necessary meetings between the relevant parties in order to fight child abduction more effectively at European level".

"Information and communication technologies open up the world to our children", added Commissioner Reding. "This entails new risks, however, such as predators in online fora and the unsolicited dissemination of content dangerous to children. But these same technologies also give us new tools to combat child abduction and track paedophiles. For years, the European Commission has been introducing and supporting initiatives that use information and communication technology to protect children. With today's launch of the 116 000 telephone number, Europe will have a single hotline number for reporting missing children".

Calling 116 000 will be free of charge, and the number should be operational throughout Europe by the summer of 2007. Citizens will know that they can dial a single number anywhere in the Union to report a missing child. It will be up to the individual Member State government to select an association or authority to manage this service. This strategy places all Community activities within a coherent framework, with the rights of the child guiding policy rather than merely being its outcome.

The European Forum for the Rights of the Child, to be launched during the first half of 2007, will serve as a lasting instrument for joint effort and discussion. Its task will be to broaden and fine-tune the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child introduced by the Commission on 4 July 2006. The Forum will bring together representatives from the Member States and NGOs, national mediators for children's rights and children themselves, making it the ideal arena for such discussions.

The Forum will address issues relating to violent, undesirable content disseminated via digital technologies such as the Internet, game consoles and online games. It will examine how much monitoring is necessary in order to safeguard our children's future. The European Commission's "Safer Internet" initiative has already made possible the setting up of free assistance centres in several Member States.
For more information on the European Commission's policy for a safer Internet, please visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/sip/index_en.htm

To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please visit his website: http://www.ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/frattini/index_en.htm

Vice President Frattini's speech at the international meeting in Paris on the issue of missing, abducted and sexually exploited children will be available on RAPID.


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