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Maddie’s parents urge plans for EU-wide missing child alert system

10 April 2008

BRUSSELS – The parents of missing child Madeleine McCann on Thursday urged European Union governments and officials in Brussels to back plans for an EU-wide missing child alert system.

Kate and Jerry McCann said such a system, modelled on a similar system already in place in the United States, would have greatly improved the chances of Maddie being found.

"Time is the enemy when a child goes missing," Kate told a press conference in Brussels.

In October, EU justice and interior ministers meeting in Portugal gave their broad backing to an EU-wide alert system designed to help coordinate police probes dealing with cross border child abductions.

But the proposal, which was originally put forward by European Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini, has yet to be adopted by the EU’s 27 member states.

"Until this system is implemented, other children and families will suffer," Jerry said.

Madeleine McCann went missing from a Portuguese holiday resort on the night of 3 May 2007. She was four-years-old at the time and has not been found since.

Following her disappearance, the McCanns launched a major international media campaign designed to attract attention to their plight.

The parents are now hoping to use their visibility to raise awareness in Brussels and in European capitals about the need to implement measures designed to help find missing children in Europe.

Asked whether they thought their daughter would ever be found, Kate said: "We certainly still have hope."

Kate said experts in the United States had told them that "there was a very good chance that Madeleine is still out there".

"The fact is that none of us know what has happened to Madeleine and we have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Madeleine has come to harm," she added.

During their visit to Brussels, the McCanns were greeted by British MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who said he would support their bid to get most of his colleagues to endorse a declaration calling for prompt action on the missing child alert system.

Thousands of children disappear in Europe each year, but only a fraction of them involve cross-border abductions.

According to the McCanns, the US "amber alert" system has succeeded in recovering around 400 abducted children since its launch five years ago.

France is one of the few countries in Europe to have a US-style amber alert in place.

[dpa / Expatica]