Parliamentary question by Marco Cappato (TDI) to to the Council and answer

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Cappato (TDI) to the Council
(5 June 2000)

Subject: Assessment of the application of the Joint Action concerning action to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation of children

On 24 February 1997 the Council adopted a Joint Action designed to improve judicial cooperation in combating trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of children.

The Member States were asked to compare and review national legislation with the aim of categorising the following as offences: the sexual exploitation or sexual abuse of children and trafficking in children with a view to their sexual exploitation or abuse, participation in such offences or attempts to commit such offences. It was requested that sanctions should include custodial penalties, possibly involving extradition (at least in serious cases), confiscation of the instruments and proceeds of the offences and temporary or permanent closure of establishments which had been used for committing offences. The Joint Action also provided that "Each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that in addition to ordinary constraining measures such as search and seizure, adequate investigation powers and techniques are available to enable the [abovementioned] offences to be investigated and prosecuted effectively". The Member States were asked to make provision for the protection of witnesses and appropriate assistance for victims and their families and to grant each other the "widest possible judicial cooperation in the investigations and judicial processes relating to the offences" mentioned above, be means of specified procedures. In Title IV, point B, the Joint Action stipulated: "The Council will assess, on the basis of appropriate information, the fulfilment by Member States of their obligations under this Joint Action, by the end of 1999".

Has the Council fulfilled the obligation placed on it by virtue of the Joint Action it adopted? If so, how far have the Member States fulfilled their abovementioned obligations, and with what results? In the event that the Member States have not complied with the Joint Action, what steps does the Council intend to take on the issue of combating trafficking in children?

(28 September 2000)

Since the adoption on 24 February 1997 of the Joint Action to which the Honourable Member refers, different initiatives have been taken at European Union level. These include Article 29 of the Treaty on European Union, as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which specifically mentions measures to combat trafficking in persons and offences against children among the means for creating an area of freedom, security and justice. In addition, powers in the area of child pornography have been entrusted to Europol(1).

Lastly, on 29 May 2000 the Council adopted a Decision to combat child pornography on the Internet on the basis of an initiative of the Republic of Austria.

Article 6 of that Decision, on which the European Parliament has been consulted, provides for an examination by the Council of the extent to which Member States have fulfilled their obligations pursuant to Joint Action 97/154/JHA and the extent to which the measures proposed in the Decision have proved effective. That examination will be carried out in the near future according to the rules laid down in the Decision. Consequently, the Council is not yet in a position to verify Member States' legislation in this area.

(1) Council Decision of 3 December 1999