Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-01-15-Speech-2-209"

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"Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I thank all the speakers, and I am also glad they have recognised that the Commission and Parliament are, for the first time in Europe and even before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, jointly formulating a genuine, horizontal European policy in all areas for the protection and promotion of the rights of the child. That is a political achievement on an issue that was not on the European agenda until two years ago and it is, therefore, also a response to those who were aware of the need for practical results. Europe is moving forward in this area. Mrs Harkin was one of those who raised the question of the effect of the Lisbon Treaty. That Treaty does not introduce a specific legal basis, but gives the value of a European policy to the strategy we are discussing here today and which hitherto was based on a common political resolve. With the Lisbon Treaty, we can now regard the strategy for the protection of children as truly European, which is a quite extraordinary step forward. In conclusion, over the coming months we must work on this subject and it is clear that in this way Europe is investing in its future. It is investing in its young people, investing for children. However, I see another area in which children could be actively involved in one of the European Union’s most important policies: the policy of integrating immigrant communities. If we placed our trust in children, in the smallest children at school, and made them ambassadors of integration – given that they find it much easier to play or learn side by side with children from different cultures and backgrounds – we will have given children the job, as someone said, not of being mini-adults, but of being genuinely actively involved in integration policy. For if that policy is not based on integrating children at school it will never be a genuine policy of integrating immigrants who come from other countries. I was very pleased with what Mr McMillan had to say. One of the main criteria for evaluating the degree of civilisation of a country is the way it treats its youngest members, its children; the Member States of the European Union and all of us Europeans aspire to lead the world in terms of the way we treat children and the opportunities we offer them. Many issues have been addressed, and some already feature in the proposal I submitted and in the very useful recommendations set out by Mrs Angelilli, yet I believe there are other points that need to be looked at in more detail in the coming months. Let us make 2008 the year of further progress with this European strategy. Mrs Gál and Mrs Sinnot, addressing the role of the family, made it very clear that many of the problems we encounter stem from a view of the role of the family that is outdated and not what it ought to be. We looked into that last year, as you will remember, in relation to violent video games; a statistical survey in Europe showed that only 20% of respondents were interested in how their children used the Internet and came across or used video games. That means that 80% of parents surveyed were not aware what type of electronic games or Internet sites their children were visiting. That shows why the family, as has been said, is the key place where we must promote the rights of the child. Mr Catania and others spoke on the question of child labour. You will remember that, in the proposal I put forward on imposing severe penalties on those who exploit the illegal work of legal immigrants, I particularly condemned the use of migrant children, who are both vulnerable because they are migrants and exploited because they are working illegally; they are particularly vulnerable because children should not work but should go to school. If that proposal, which is on the table, is adopted it will become a European directive and will, therefore, legally compel Member States to introduce rules of a kind we unfortunately do not yet have . The question of unaccompanied migrant children is an important one, and we are discussing ways of financing targeted projects, for we have discovered situations that really are tragic, in addition to those that have been mentioned. In the Canaries, for example, the Spanish Government has discovered very worrying cases, which we must obviously address, of the arrival of large numbers of children who are unaccompanied because their parents have simply sent them off alone. That is quite shocking in itself. We must strengthen European legislation to combat violence against children, as Mrs Segelström made quite clear. There is one very serious issue that concerns me personally. There are rules to ensure that one of the two parents is effectively granted custody of a child in the event of separation or divorce. In fact, in many Member States the rules in force are not applied in practice; that is not to say that the governments are not applying them, but often the magistrates and courts are scarcely aware of them. There are cases where one parent actually steals the child from the other parent. In some cases it proves impossible to enforce the decisions, which is why we must put much more emphasis on this question in the context of allocating the custody of minors. Sex tourism is another area to be addressed, including cooperation among public authorities and private individuals, tourist agencies and credit card companies, to help us to identify people who buy child pornography material on the Internet. Clearly the paedophiles do not pay cash, they pay by credit card. If we have that cooperation, which we are making a start on, then we will also be able to reduce and put a stop to the tragedy of sex tourism. A new area is the right to grow up in a non-polluted environment, the environmental rights of the child. We must focus on it closely because it is not just a new area but one that we must quite clearly all address."@en1

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