Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
Not Child's Play: Working together to better promote and protect the rights of the child
European Forum on the Rights of the Child
Brussels, 23 November 2011
Dear Vice-President Angelilli,
Dear Ambassador Frøysnes,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you to the 6 th European Forum on the Rights of the Child.
To improve, promote and protect children's rights is one of my priorities. With the Lisbon Treaty and the legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Rights of the Child are at the heart of the EU's objectives. They give us the means to act for children, and the duty to make use of these means.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by all Member States, is the key reference point which embodies the international standards in this area.
The rights of the child enshrined in these instruments should of course not remain abstract. We need to ensure their effectiveness in the real world, and we need to deliver concrete results! This is why the European Commission presented the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child at the beginning of this year. The EU Agenda contains concrete actions to safeguard these rights. Last year, the Forum was dedicated to the preparation of the Children's Rights Agenda. Today, I would like to take stock of our achievements and look at the next steps forward.
The need for reliable data
As you discussed earlier today, the EU Agenda highlights a significant lack of reliable, comparable, and official data about the situation and needs of children in the Member States.
I am delighted to tell you that, with the financial support of the European Parliament, I will commission a study on the collection of data regarding the situation of children in the Member States. I am confident that by 2013 we will have solid and reliable data from all EU Member States, which will enable us to develop better policies and to be more responsive to the needs of children.
Mainstreaming the Rights of the Child
The EU Agenda also emphasises the need to ensure that all our policies are fully compliant with the Charter.
We have made substantial progress. New guidelines on the fundamental rights check help our services to better assess the impact of legislative proposals on fundamental rights and children's rights.
The Commission will regularly report on progress in the implementation of the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child in its Annual Report on the application of the Fundamental Rights Charter of the EU.
Let us now turn to concrete actions that will make a real difference to children's lives. The EU Agenda's aims are threefold:
First, making the justice system more child-friendly
We must adapt the justice systems to meet the needs of children, as highlighted by the Commission's Action Plan implementing the Stockholm Programme. The Council of Europe Guidelines on child-friendly justice are a very useful tool which we will continue to promote and draw on in this context.
To make the justice system better adapted to children I have presented a proposal for a new directive - the so-called Victims' Rights Package . Crime victims, including children, must have the same minimum level of rights, support, protection and access to justice in all EU Member States, and the victims' package will ensure that. The proposal for a Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime aims to make sure that special care is taken of children's specific needs. For instance, if a child does not have an appropriate representative, interviews may only be videotaped and used as evidence in court where the judicial authority appoints an appropriate representative for the child.
Next year, I will also propose minimum rules for procedural safeguards for suspected or accused children.
The second aim of the EU agenda, protecting children when they are vulnerable, is also well under way.
Unfortunately, children are still victims of trafficking, sexual abuse, exploitation and pornography.
Last year, the Commission proposed a Directive to better protect children who are victims of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation , under the lead of Cecilia Malmström. The progress has been impressive, as the Directive equips the EU to fight these crimes more effectively. After the European Parliament approved this proposal last month, I am delighted that the Directive was adopted by the Council on 15 November.
I would like to thank the European Parliament and the Council for this great achievement. I would like to pay special tribute to you, Vice-President Angelilli, for your work as the Parliament's Rapporteur, and for your determination in reaching a compromise on this difficult but extremely important file.
The 116 000 hotline for missing children and child alert systems are designed to help children who go missing, whether they run away or are abducted.
The 116 000 hotline is a Europe-wide hotline to report missing children and offer support to their family. To date, the hotline works in only 16 Member States. This is not good enough. The Commission will continue doing its part, but the remaining Member States must make every effort to have the hotline operational as soon as possible.
Child alert systems are early warning mechanisms alerting the public to the disappearance of a child, using all possible electronic means. This system is in place in one way or another in 10 Member States. My objective is to make sure child alert systems are functional in all Member States and I count on Member States' support here.
Children in poverty or at risk of poverty are particularly vulnerable. To address the growing concern of child poverty, the Commission, under the lead of Commissioner László Andor, intends to adopt a Recommendation on child poverty in 2012.
The third aim of the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child is the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in the EU's external action.
The European Union will continue to promote the protection of children and will fight for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour. To this end, we engage with multilateral bodies, in particular the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Labour Organisation.
Our actions must be underpinned by appropriate funding. Last week the Commission presented its proposals for the Rights and Citizenship Programme which will, as one of its priorities, promote the rights of the child. This will enable the Commission to continue funding actions in this area.
Child participation and information
Let me say a word about the children themselves. For all these actions to yield results, we need to involve children and give them a chance to voice their opinions. In view of this, the Commission will draw on the expertise of the European Forum on the Rights of the Child. As one example of a form of child participation, I am particularly pleased that today Silva Järvinen, a former chair of the Finnish Children's Parliament is here to share her views on how children's rights should be communicated and how children themselves can be involved in the protection and promotion of their rights. We are all aware that children want to be better informed about their rights, consulted on issues that concern them and empowered to exercise their rights.
To that end, when adopting the EU Agenda, we committed to providing easily accessible information for children on the official EU website. And I am pleased to announce today that we have created a single entry point for children, called the Kids' Corner . At present it exists only in English, but will go live in 22 languages by the end of this year. The European Website on the Rights of the Child, already available in all EU languages, features prominently on the Kid's Corner and contains child-friendly information, games and quizzes on the Rights of the Child and our policies.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we all have a role to play in promoting and safeguarding the Rights of the Child.
Before I leave the floor to Vice-President Angelilli, I would like to present a short video, as an example of the material that will feature on the Kids' Corner.