Brussels, 25 May 2010
International Missing Children's Day: European Commission urges Member States to make 116 000 missing children hotlines operational
Today, on the occasion of International Missing Children's Day, European Commission Vice-Presidents Viviane Reding, responsible for EU Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, and Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, urged EU Member States to step up their efforts to introduce child alert systems and to make the missing children's hotline 116 000 operational as soon as possible.
"Every missing child is a tragedy, and we must do everything we can to prevent such tragedies. The Commission created the European 116000 hotline to report missing children and offer guidance and support to their families, everywhere in Europe. I regret to see that the hotline works only in 11 Member States," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "It is hard to come to terms with the fact that measures that could help are not yet fully operational across the Union. It would be a double tragedy to imagine a missing child trying to call the 116 000 hotline only to hear an answering machine playing a pre-recorded message announcing that the service will be operational in 2012. I call on Member States to put every effort to change this."
Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, added, "Member States must respect their legal obligations to not only put in place the missing children hotline number as a matter of urgency but also ensure that the public is well-informed about it."
The EU has already put in place the rules to ensure that the 116000 number is set aside everywhere in the EU for hotlines to report missing children and offer guidance and support to their families. These hotlines are currently operational in 11 Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia). 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). The Commission will closely monitor the implementation of this obligation by the Member States, as it did for the single European emergency number 112, which now works free of charge anywhere in the EU (IP/08/1968).
The Commission also supports the creation of cross-border child alert systems that help in the search of abducted children by enabling the public to provide the relevant authorities with real-time information. Alert systems exist in 8 Member States (the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Greece, Germany and the UK).
On 15 February 2007 the Commission adopted a Decision requiring EU countries to make the 116 000 number available 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).
In March this year, the Commission adopted two proposals containing new rules to step up the fight against child abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. These new proposals will guarantee greater assistance for victims and harsher measures against the criminals responsible for the sexual exploitation of children and trafficking (IP/10/379).
Under the revised telecoms rules agreed in 2009 (see MEMO/09/513), and in particular Article 27a of the amended Universal Service Directive, Member States are obliged, no later than 25th 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 "116000." 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
Missing Children Europe:
Justice and Home Affairs Newsroom:
Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:
Homepage of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President and Commissioner for Digital Agenda:
Countries where 116 000 is operational