Brussels, 10 July 2008
Parents and children need to be able to call help quickly and free of charge while travelling in the EU. In the UK and Belgium alone more than 7,500 children were reported missing in 2007 (www.missingchildreneurope.eu). Public concern about child safety has been heightened by cases like the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal. In 2007, the Commission took action by reserving, at national level, six-digit numbers starting with 116 for missing children hotlines (116000) and for helplines (116111) with which children can seek assistance. However, a recent EU survey shows that only a minority of Member States have assigned these numbers to service providers: seven for 116000 and ten for 116111 (see Annex). The Commission today called on Member States to speed up implementation of these numbers. Under EU law Member States do not have to assign the numbers, but are required to reserve them and inform the public and providers of their availability. The survey shows few efforts by Member States to make known the numbers' availability, delaying their implementation.
"A year ago the Commission called for European 116 phone numbers to make it easier for parents and children to call for help," said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner. "So far only Hungary has taken all the necessary steps to get 116 services up and running. I applaud this example, but alarm bells should be ringing in the other 26 Member States. Under the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, signed by all EU Member States, the rights of the child must be protected. It is a pity that in many countries action doesn't seem to follow words when it comes to implementing numbers that can provide precious help to parents and children. The Commission has done its part of the job and hopes that it won't be necessary to start legal proceedings on a matter where there should be broad consensus."
Today's survey shows that more progress is needed to get 116 000 and 116111 services working across the EU:
It is up to hotline and helpline providers to launch services once a Member State assigns them a number. These service providers must be able to adequately handle free of charge calls 24/7, nation-wide. The Commission closely follows implementation in the Member States.
In July 2006, the European Commission proposed to reserve a common telephone number to report missing children and another for children to call help. This follows the adoption of the EU strategy on the rights of the child (IP/06/927). On 15 February 2007 and 30 October 2007 respectively the Commission decided to reserve 116000 (IP/07/188) and 116111 in all Member States. The decision obliges EU countries make publicly available "116 numbers", but does not oblige them to assign the numbers to a service provider or ensure provision of the services. The 116000 number should have been made available by 31 August 2007, 116111 on 29 February 2008, after which national telecom operators can activate them for use by hotline and helpline providers. A third number, 116123, has been reserved for adult emotional support helplines.
Following the European Commission's initiative, the International Telecommunications Union called, on 16 June 2008, for 116 111 to be adopted worldwide.
The survey and more information are available at:
Legend: (P) = preparatory work not completed yet