No Europe-wide missing child alert system
EU members argue that a Europe-wide alert system would be rendered pointless as children are mostly found in the area where they go missing.9 July 2008
CANNES - European nations agreed Tuesday to cooperate more closely in the hunt for lost children but could not endorse a Europe-wide alert system sought by the parents of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann.
EU justice ministers, at informal talks in the French Riveria resort city of Cannes, decided to set up national police centres to coordinate any international search when it becomes necessary.
Germany argues that alerting all 27 nations as soon as a child disappears and launching a massive media campaign would be pointless as most are found in the area where they went missing quite quickly.
"We shouldn't send out a European alert when a child has been gone for just a few hours," said German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries. "The great majority of children return home after two or three days."
But the parents of Madeleine, Kate and Gerry McCann said in April that a swift EU-wide alert system could have helped locate their daughter, who disappeared from a Portuguese resort in May 2007.
Since their daughter went missing, not far from the Spanish border just before her fourth birthday, there have been reported sightings from Belgium to North Africa. No-one has been charged or arrested over her apparent abduction.
"Please don't wait until another child and family suffer as we have before agreeing to support the implementation of an alert system in Europe," said Kate McCann, who along with her husband was a suspect in the case.
EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot urged the ministers to go further, saying that missing children were being found more quickly in European countries where a solid alert system is in place, like France and Greece.
"The ministers have to be more energetic and impose this alert service," he told reporters. "When a child has been abducted we have to move very, very quickly."
Luxembourg Justice Minister Luc Frieden supported the European-wide system, but said that, since agreement was not possible, small groups of countries could decide to forge ahead by themselves.
"We should try something European. We don't need very complicated legal texts. This is an aspect where police and legal authorities can work together," he said.
[AFP / Expatica]