What is the European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction?
The office was created in 1987 by former European Parliament President Lord Plumb, on the basis of a case of abduction that occurred at that time. Cases of international marriages were rare then, but he understood that they would become more frequent in an integrated Union. Today, there are 350,000 cross border marriages in the EU, and 170.000 divorces (20% of the total). In only 6 months as mediator, I received 20 requests.
If the two parties are willing we start mediation, if not, we provide assistance to facilitate dialogue and mutual comprehension, to smooth the judicial procedure. Very often, there are delays because of different legal systems between the Member States. There are some very difficult cases where parents haven't seen their children for 10 years.
Mediation helps avoid the "run to the tribunal", that often damages the children. It goes beyond the legal approach, taking into account human and psychological aspects. The aim is to understand what matters to both parents, and find a solution that can partially satisfy the two.
How did you resolve the case last week?
I was contacted by the father's lawyer, who was looking for an alternative solution, and found me on Google. We should be more pro-active in making this role known, because it can help avoiding very long and expansive procedures.
We started work in March. Last week the father came to Strasbourg while the mother was in conference call from Bratislava. They talked and we stopped them when they started arguing, or when they deviated from the issue of the children.
The talks lasted 7 hours, but got a very positive result: on 26 July, the father will have his children, and spend the holidays with them. We planned a yearly calendar of meetings. I couldn't believe that it worked. It has been very touchy, and I'm proud that we gave a concrete help to these people.
Can the EU do anything more to tackle this problem?
Last week Parliament gave the green light to the "enhanced cooperation procedure" for international divorces, and this is a good step as it will help to solve cases faster, protecting the interest of the minors, which should always be put first.
As Mediator, I don't have the belief I can solve all cases, but I would like to make a compilation of best practices based on experience. I will propose Commissioner Reding make this tool available to help other authorities to solve cases in an innovative way.