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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its Member States.
The Acceding Country Croatia*, the Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland† and Serbia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.
We welcome this High Level Meeting which provides an opportunity to look at the achievements, gaps and challenges in the implementation of the UN Global plan of Action and relevant legal instruments. We hope that this meeting will also raise awareness and foster cooperation between the different actors and be a forum to exchange experiences and best practices.
Addressing trafficking in persons is very high on the EU agenda. Trafficking in persons is the slavery of our times. It is a gross violation of human rights and an extremely complex and ever changing form of organised crime. In this regard, we reiterate the crucial importance of the Palermo Protocol which provided for the first time an internationally agreed definition of the crime of trafficking in persons, aimed at the prevention of trafficking in persons, protection of its victims and prosecution of its perpetrators. As one of the main objectives of the Global Plan of Action, we invite all States to ratify it without delay to ensure its effective, coordinated and coherent implementation.
The International Labour Organization estimates the number of victims of forced labour, at 20.9 million at a global level, while 880.000 are believed to be in forced labour in the European Union. Different reports show clear trends and perspectives, but specific data is not always comparable. But from what we know this only the tip of the iceberg. In April 2013, the first ever EU Report on trafficking in human beings was released, demonstrating worrying trends. 23.632 people were identified or presumed victims of trafficking in the EU over the 2008-2010 period. Almost seven out of ten trafficking victims in Europe are women, 15 per cent are children While more victims are being identified, there have been fewer convictions of traffickers. The UNODC 2012 Global Report confirms the negative trends we observe in Europe but also provide hope as more and more countries criminalize this activity. This report is one of the most practical outcomes of the UN Global Plan of Action providing the international community with data collection and biennial reporting on patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at the global, regional and national levels.
We affirm our commitment to address trafficking in persons in a comprehensive, holistic way. The EU has developed a dynamic and comprehensive legal and policy framework, not only complying with international standards but also developing further beneficial provisions.
Trafficking in human beings is a gross violation of human rights, prohibited by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention of Human Rights. Our approach therefore places the victim and its human rights at the centre of its action to work towards eradication of trafficking in human beings, taking into account gender aspects and the best interest of the child.
The EU has developed, in complementarity with the national strategies of the EU Member States, the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human beings 2012 – 2016. It provides a coherent framework for existing and planned priorities and favours an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to address trafficking in human beings. The EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, appointed in March 2011 by the European Commission, gives overall strategic policy orientation, also in relation to third countries, and oversees the implementation of this Strategy.
This EU Strategy consists of concrete and practical measures to be implemented over the next five years and is based on five key priorities which are fully in line with the UN Global Plan of Action including the promotion of partnerships with international organisations. Those priorities are as follows: (1) Identifying, protecting and assisting victims of trafficking; (2) Stepping up the prevention of trafficking in human beings; (3)Increased prosecution of traffickers; (4) Enhanced coordination and cooperation among key actors and policy coherence ; (5) Increased knowledge of and effective response to emerging concerns related to all forms of trafficking in human beings. It also put the emphasis on increased cooperation with third countries of origin, transit and destination to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings.
As part of our holistic approach, we would like to underline that the prevention, prosecution of criminals and protection of victims of trafficking constitute one of the four pillars of the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility.
Let me underline the particular importance the EU places on the need to identify, assist, support, protect and compensate the victims of trafficking in persons, but also in reducing demand as form of prevention.. Taking into account the victim centred approach, the European Commission has published “The EU rights of victims of trafficking in human beings” as a model for Member States to develop clear, user-friendly information on labour, social, victim and migrant rights that victims of trafficking in human beings have under EU law in their jurisdiction.
We would also like to underline the need for a strong coordination among various responsible entities within the UN to make the fight against trafficking in persons more effective.
The EU attaches great importance to the participation of civil society in efforts to addressing trafficking in persons. The work and action of civil society make a significant difference to the victims and survivors. We encourage all to ensure their inclusion in relevant frameworks.
We look forward to interactive and fruitful debates during this high level event. The summary of this meeting will undoubtedly provide a very useful contribution to the work of UNODC and all theViennabased processes. This meeting will give momentum to renewed commitments in the fight against trafficking in persons and to the discussions on the implementation mechanism for the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols.
* Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process
† Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area