Justice and Home Affairs Council discusses combating human trafficking
7. September 2005From 7-9 September Justice Minister Rein Lang will attend an unofficial meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union in Newcastle, England. Among other things the meeting will focus on how to improve the fight against human trafficking in the European Union and analyse the possibilities of application of the Community's civil proceedings provisions in court disputes at a national level. The Ministers will also discuss how to simplify proceedings of minor cross-border debt claims and how to further develop the European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters.
In connection with combating human trafficking, Estonia feels that cooperation with non-EU countries should definitely be enhanced. "Only in cooperation with third countries can the fight against human trafficking be effective, because it is a crime that is very international by its nature," said Justice Minister Rein Lang. “We have to share our knowledge, experiences and skills with them to tackle the problems related to human trafficking. To that end we need to exchange experts and seize the possibilities of police cooperation. The third sector plays an important role in prevention of human trafficking and elimination of its consequences and the Member States of the European Union must support such efforts by non-profit associations. It is also important to increase people's awareness of the threats of human trafficking through the media and other channels."
Estonia believes that in order to work with the victims of human trafficking it is necessary to train social workers, border guards, police officers and even the military to recognise them.
The EU's value added in combating human trafficking could lie in supporting projects and programmes between Member States as well as with third countries, because the countries of origin of human trafficking usually lie outside the EU. "Prevention is always more effective than dealing with the consequences," remarked the Minister, "so the EU should certainly involve third countries in solving the problem, and provide funding where possible."
Regarding the possible application of the provisions of the European payment order procedure, small claims procedure and pre-court conciliation procedure, Estonia will stand by its position that within the framework of cooperation in civil law matters the Treaty establishing the European Community only allows for the establishment of measures which can be applied in cross-border disputes. Member States should be free in their choice of whether to adhere to these procedures in the case of national disputes.
In respect of the cross-border procedure of small claims, Estonia will support the principle of proportionality (the procedure should be as fast and as cheap as possible, considering that the claims are smaller), but emphasises that the quality of the procedure and the rights of parties must not suffer.
The European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters is an organisation whose activities are aimed at the development and improvement of judicial cooperation between Member States. Currently the public and professionals can only access information about Community law and various national civil and commercial provisions on the website of the Judicial Network. The Council will also discuss whether to enable queries to be presented to the members of the network. Estonia will support this initiative, because the opening up of the network will provide citizens with high-quality information regarding cross-border legal matters.
At the meeting the Minister of Justice will be accompanied by Martin Hirvoja, Deputy Secretary General on Criminal Policy, Urmas Volens, Head of the Private Law Division, and Merli Vahar and Tõnu Pihelgas, Attachés for Judicial Affairs of the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU.