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Brussels, 10 April 2008
The European Commission is engaged in the implementation of its strategy on the Rights of the Child, which was announced in its 2006 communication “Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child”. A number of actions envisaged in the communication have already been launched. The EU has developed various concrete policies and programmes on children’s rights, spanning both internal and external policies and covering a broad range of issues, such as child trafficking and sexual abuse, violence against children, discrimination, child poverty, social exclusion, child labour, health and education.
A Commission Decision has reserved the number 116000 for a single telephone number for urgent calls about missing children. Work has also been launched with Member States to promote the introduction of a Child Alert mechanism in every Member State, and to use such Child Alert mechanism at cross-border level when necessary.
The Commission is currently setting up a mechanism to stop payments made with a credit card or an electronic payment when purchasing images of sexual abuse of children on the Internet. In addition, a study on the design of indicators concerning children’s rights and on relevant data sources was launched recently and is monitored with the help of the European Agency on Fundamental Rights.
Other actions concern violence against children, civil justice aspects such as maintenance obligations, parental responsibility and family mediation, and criminal justice aspects, such as fight against trafficking, sexual exploitation and pedopornography and prevention of the use of drugs.
In 2007, work has also been undertaken on poverty and social exclusion of children within the context of the Open Method of Coordination on Social Protection and Social Inclusion which has led to an in-depth examination of policies to fight child poverty feeding into the 2008 Joint report on social protection and social inclusion.
The Commission has recently adopted a communication on Children in External Action, which places children at the centre of the EU’s external relations, development and humanitarian aid policies. The Communication, with the attached Staff Working Papers on 'Children’s Rights in External Action' and on 'Children in Situations of Emergency and Crisis' is intended to contribute to the development of a long-term strategy in connection with the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the Council in December 2007.
Recent initiatives supported by the Commission include the Safer Internet Day on 12 February 2008.The Safer Internet Day is aimed to create awareness messages on the safe and ethical use of information and communication technologies, namely of the internet and mobile phones. On 11 February 2008 the GSM Association, the global trade association for mobile operators, has launched the Mobile Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Content to obstruct the use of the mobile environment by individuals or organisations wishing to consume or profit from child sexual abuse content.
The European Forum for the rights of the child
The European Forum for the rights of the child was created with the aim to strengthen the mainstreaming of children's rights in EU legislation, policies and programmes. The Forum gathers representatives from the Member States, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, UNICEF, the Ombudspersons and the representatives of civil society. The first Forum meeting on 4 June 2007 in Berlin discussed possible mechanisms for future participation of children to the Forum and how to protect children against sexual exploitation. At its second meeting on 4 March 2008, the Forum discussed child poverty, with special attention to the situation of Roma children, as well as the possible introduction of Child Alert mechanisms in every Member State.
A third meeting of the Forum is planned for November 2008.
For its tenth year of existence, the Daphne programme starts a new period of activity 2007-2013 with a global budget of € 116 million. The Daphne programme supports projects aimed at fighting against violence towards children, young people and women.
Cases of missing children and abductions can become cross-border phenomena. It therefore seemed appropriate to have a single telephone number in the EU for urgent calls about missing children. Commission Decision (2007) 24912, sets aside the number 116000 for this purpose. The advantage of a single hotline number is that it will be for parents to call a single number within the EU to report the disappearance of a child. Child abductions with a transnational dimension are not isolated cases.
Putting in place the services corresponding to number 116 remains the responsibility of Member States. Only four Member States have attributed the number 116000 to a service provider: Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Portugal. Other countries are in the process of doing so. Seven Member States have already completed the preparatory work for assignment to a service provider (Austria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia).
The Commission intends to do all it can to ensure that all Member States activate the 116 000 number in order to strengthen the protection of children across the EU.
EU-wide Child Alert mechanism
Child Alert systems already exist at national level in France and Greece.
The added value of such a mechanism is the possibility to involve the public in the search for information about a missing child. In a number of cases, kidnapped children have been rescued thanks to information given by the public following an alert launched through the media.
An EU-wide Child Alert system could effectively be established through national systems, with clear contact points and easily transmissible data when trans-border cases occur: a given national alert system could be activated in the relevant areas of a neighbouring Member State upon request of the Member State where the abduction has been perpetrated, when there are reasons to believe that the child has been transferred abroad. Acting fast is crucial when it comes to rescuing a missing child. The Commission has submitted draft guidelines to the authorities of the Member States describing possible ways of cooperation among Member States.
Stopping the sale of child sexual abuse images
Framework Decision 2004/68 lays down the obligation for Member States to criminalize and impose penalties of a certain level for sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, as well as to establish their own jurisdiction and to grant protection and assistance for children as particularly vulnerable victims, and for their families. According to the Commission's report of 2007 on the implementation of this instrument, the situation in Member States seems to be generally satisfactory as far as criminalization and penalties is concerned, but information on assistance to victims is incomplete.
The Commission is currently setting up a mechanism to stop payments made with a credit card or an electronic payment when purchasing images of sexual abuses of children on the Internet. In 2005, to implement this mechanism, Europe VISA created the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection). CEOP has some hundred employees, mainly computer experts and financial investigators who scan millions of Internet sites in search of illicit content. When such sites are found, information is passed on to the police and VISA which checks with its "card quire" if transactions were made for the companies running these sites.
After several preparatory meetings, a draft document moots the possibility of a one-stop-shop for all the partners (banks, credit card companies, Internet access providers and national authorities). This one-stop-shop would bring under one roof in the detection of illicit content on the Internet, finding the sites involved and informing the banks so as to stop financial transactions and informing the authorities in order to bring offenders to justice.
The financial sector set up a steering group in autumn 2007 to implement the preparatory measures. In 2008, they will submit a project for a Commission funding, in order to create this one-stop-shop.