Brussels, 17 November 2010
European Commission makes final call to 14 Member States to activate missing children hotline 116 000
The European Commission today made a final call to 14 EU Member States to make the Europe-wide 116 000 hotline for missing children operational as soon as possible. The hotline provides a single number for missing children and their parents to call for help anywhere in the EU. Having the same hotline will help children and parents in trouble get help when away from home, such as during family holidays. In a report adopted today, the Commission takes stock of the situation in the Member States, proposes common minimum quality requirements for the service throughout the EU and gives Member States a last chance to make the hotline operational before considering legislative measures.
"The disappearance of a child is always a tragedy and in some cases their life may even be at risk. The 116 000 number offers help, support and a potential lifeline for missing children and their parents," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "Every child and every parent should remember just one number instead of 27 national ones. Citizens should also expect that their requests are treated in a similar way no matter where in Europe they call the 116 hotline. I call on Member States to make every effort to implement the hotline swiftly to put children’s safety and security first."
Vice-President Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, added "A missing child is a traumatic experience – we have a duty to provide the simplest and most effective means to help parents and children in such a situation. This is what 116 000 is about: just one short phone number you can call, whatever European country you find yourself in. So those Member States lagging behind have to get their act together to make the 116 000 number operational throughout the EU."
In 2007, the EU already put in place rules (Commission Decision 2007/116/EC) to ensure that the 116 000 number is reserved everywhere in the EU for hotlines to report missing children and offer guidance and support to their families. With the adoption of new EU telecoms rules in November 2009, EU Member States are obliged to make every effort to ensure that the 116 000 hotline is activated by 25 May 2011 (MEMO/09/491, IP/09/1812). Today, the 116 000 hotline is fully implemented in only 12 Member States (the first country to make the number functioning was Portugal in 2007) and still has to be made fully operational in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Sweden. It is currently only partially operational in the United Kingdom.
Today's report is the Commission's last call to Member States to implement the missing children hotline as a matter of priority. It also indentifies obstacles in implementing the hotline and provides practical solutions to governments that have not yet made the number operational.
The two main obstacles to full implementation identified by the Commission are the lack of information provided to the public and operators about the existence of the hotline, and cost – both in running and calling the 116 000 number. To tackle these problems, the Commission identifies examples of good practices from the experience of those countries where the hotline is operational. Some examples include:
Multilingual service provision: in Romania, the service is also available in French, English and Spanish. In Greece the service is also available in English.
Targeted training is organised for operators in Hungary, Spain and Romania where staff are usually social workers and psychologists. Hotline operators receive training on procedural rules and how to respond to calls, coping with the caller's emotions such as anger and panic.
Cooperation agreements between service providers and national enforcement and/or judiciary authorities can make the case handling more efficient. Such agreements exist in Belgium, Spain, France, Portugal and Romania.
The Commission proposes using these best practices to work out a set of common minimum standards that would guarantee a high-quality service throughout the EU, so that parents and children can count on the same assistance, no matter where they are.
The Commission will also organise high-level meetings with all stakeholders every year until the hotline is operational in all 27 EU countries. The meetings will raise awareness, allow exchanges of best practice and identify practical tools to ensure the hotline is operational and offers a high-quality service. These meetings will be held around 25 May every year to mark International Missing Children’s Day and to express solidarity with missing children and their families.
On 15 February 2007, the Commission adopted a Decision requiring Member States to reserve the 116 000 number for child hotlines across the EU (IP/07/188). The Commission has repeatedly urged Member States to make this number operational as soon as possible (IP/08/1129).
Under the revised telecoms rules agreed in 2009 (see MEMO/09/513), and in particular Article 27a of the Universal Service Directive (Directive 2009/136/EC) Member States are required, no later than 25 May 2011, to "make every effort to ensure that citizens have access to a service operating a hotline to report cases of missing children. The hotline shall be available on the number 116 000." The same Directive also requires Member States to "ensure that citizens are adequately informed of the existence and use of services provided under the 116 numbering range, in particular through initiatives specifically targeting persons travelling between Member States."
For more information
Justice and Home Affairs Newsroom:
Missing Children Europe:
Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:
Homepage of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President and Commissioner for Digital Agenda:
State of implementation for 116000
TDC (Thora Center)
INA VEM Fédération nationale d'aide aux victimes
The Smile of the Child
Malta Police Force
Stichting de Ombudsman (Centrum Internationale Kinderontvoering)
Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. / ITAKA – Centre for Missing People
Instituto de Apoio à Criança
Rometelecom (Romanian Center for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children)
Orange SK (Slovak Board of UNICEF)
Charity Missing People