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Stronger rights for children - 17/02/2011

Child with EU flag in woods © EU

EU plans to protect children and uphold their rights throughout Europe and overseas.

With a responsibility to protect children's rights, the Commission is proposing 11 measures - chiefly legal changes and support for authorities in EU countries:

  • laws to better protect children (as an especially vulnerable group) during legal proceedings and in court
  • laws safeguarding children when they are suspects or accused of a crime
  • new laws ensuring that decisions on parental responsibility following divorce or separation are recognised and enforced in all EU countries
  • action to promote Council of Europe guidelines on child-friendly justice and take them into account in future civil and criminal law-making
  • support for training judges and other professionals to help children in court
  • better training for authorities responsible for unaccompanied children, including those seeking asylum in the EU
  • special attention for children in an upcoming EU plan to help the Roma integrate more in society
  • support for the quick introduction of the EU's 116 000 hotline for missing children (cross-border alert systems for abducted or at-risk children would also be encouraged)
  • measures to counter cyber-bullying, grooming, exposure to harmful content, and other online risks through the EU's safer internet programme
  • support in combating violence against children and child sex tourism, and protecting victims of armed conflicts, through the EU's overseas and humanitarian aid programmes
  • a single EU website on children's rights

These measures are set out in more detail in a Commission policy paper on children's rights .

As well as the above, the EU will take into account the best interests of children in all its polices and legislation.

Some 78% of children surveyed in 2009 said they were not aware they even had any rights and 80% did not know who to contact if they needed help.

These findings were also supported by a 2010 EU survey of teenagers that canvassed focus groups including Roma, Sinti, travellers and those with special needs.

Children's rights are enshrined in the EU law, in particular the EU charter of fundamental rights, which the EU and its member countries are legally bound to uphold. All 27 countries have also ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child.

More on children's rights

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