Last night at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg I spoke about the accession of 8 countries to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
The Labour Party will vote along with our colleagues in the Socialists and Democrats and across the chamber in accepting the accession of these countries; however I felt it was important to make a few pertinent points about this accession.
I’m worried that without further EU assessment into the infrastructure and procedures in these countries, both proposed and in place, we risk sending children who have already suffered a huge ordeal back into danger.
When the application of the Hague Convention was a Member State issue, the assessments undertaken allowed us to assess acceding countries in order to ascertain the level of child protection which would be provided. We worry that these vulnerable children will not be adequately protected. What is a fairly legalistic attitude towards the recognition of other systems will have an effect on the lives of young people who have been abducted.
While the argument has been made by other groups that it is important to have a maximum level of participation in the Hague Convention to ensure that children who have been abducted in cross-border situations are given the maximum care and possibility of being reunited with their families, we wish to underline that the EU also has obligations. It is not sufficient that we simply accept the principle that we return children who have already suffered an ordeal to their state of habitual residence, then simply forget about them. We need to maintain pressure on acceding states to ensure their compliance with the terms of the Convention.
It is also helpful that there is virtual unanimity across the European Parliament on this. We need to ensure that child protection in these situations remains at the forefront, and that we don’t risk running before we can walk.
You can see the full speech here: