The European Parliament and international parental child abduction
The European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction stands ready to provide information and help child victims of cross-border parental child abduction and their parents involved in cross-border family disputes in Europe and beyond.
Cross-border disputes in family matters continue to rise in the EU as the number of international families increases . Over the years, mediation has evolved to become a well-established profession and a recognised means to resolve family disputes. The European Parliament thereby is committed to promoting the use of mediation in cross border family disputes and to protecting children’s rights across Europe.
Elisabeth Morin-Chartier is the current European Parliament Mediator and was appointed in May 2017, following Mairead McGuinness (2014-2017), Roberta Angelilli (2009-2014), Evelyne Gebhardt (2004-2009), Mary Banotti (1995-2004) and Marie-Claude Vayssade (1987-1994). The position was created in 1987 on the initiative of Lord Plumb, the then President of the European Parliament.
Child abduction: How can the European Parliament Mediator help?
The breakup of a relationship between two parents is difficult for every child but when these disputes have a cross-border dimension, the situation becomes even more complicated. Parental child abduction occurs if a parent wrongfully removes or retains the child(ren) from their normal place of residence (habitual residence) without the consent of the other parent.
The best interest of the child is the guiding principle of the activity of the European Parliament Mediator.
Measures to take by parents
The Mediator’s Office is in contact with national Central Authorities, cross-border family mediator organisations, lawyers specialised in child abduction cases, NGO’s and other key stakeholders. Where appropriate, the European Parliament Mediator can help both parents involved in cross-border family disputes by providing information, especially by indicating to them certain measures available to redress the situation. Nevertheless, this information is of course additional to and does not replace professional legal advice provided by the lawyers of the parties or advice and guidance by professional cross-border family mediators.
Promotion of Mediation as an alternative to court in child abduction, custody and access disputes
Mediation presents a viable and efficient way to solve family disputes, in particular in high conflict family cases such as child abduction or other cross-border family disputes. Mediation can help avoid long and costly court battles by assisting parents to reach a joint decision to either ensure the early return of the child or prevent the unnecessary relocation of the child. It enables parents to find long lasting solutions, taking all issues in dispute between parents into account, custody, access, and down to any details related to the child’s well-being.
This is why the Mediator’s Office actively seeks to promote this solution to parents and will assist them to contact cross-border family mediator organisations around the world.
Alongside promoting the benefits of mediation, the Mediator advocates for the use of mediation across Europe and beyond by encouraging closer collaboration between judges, lawyers and central authorities, as well as with mediators’ organisations.
Legal framework: Parental Child Abduction
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child abduction applies in 98 states worldwide. The objective of the Convention is to secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in a Contracting State and to ensure that the rights of custody and/or access in one Contracting State are effectively respected in the other contracting state.
The Council Regulation (EC) 2201/2003, “Brussels II bis” , applies within the European area of Freedom, Security and Justice. Thus, with the exception of Denmark, European rules are applicable in Member States in addition to the Hague rules.
Protecting the rights of the child
The protection and promotion of children’s rights is an explicit objective of the European Union enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon (Article 3 TEU)
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights also requires the European institutions and the EU Member States, when implementing Union law, to ensure protection of the rights of the child.
In the light of the given legal framework, the European Parliament is highly committed to safeguarding and advancing children’s rights.
Building upon the experience the Mediator’s office gained over the years, since 2018, the Mediator is also actively promoting children's rights in EU policies. In close collaboration with the relevant parliamentary committees and the EP Intergroup on Children’s Rights , the Office monitors EU legislation and non-legislative initiatives in the Parliament to ensure the rights of the child are given all due consideration.
The Mediator is also a focus point on children’s rights with institutions and organisations involved in EU policy and children rights, as well as with civil society.
Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: The rights of the child
- Children shall have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being. They may express their views freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity.
- In all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration.
- Every child shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis a personal relationship and direct contact with both his or her parents, unless that is contrary to his or her interests.