Missing Children Europe welcomes child's best interest considerations in revision of Brussels II bis

Brussels, 19 July 2016 - Since 2005, the Brussels IIa Regulation has been one of the most important judicial instruments used in cases of international child abduction. 29% of cases dealt with by hotlines for missing children across Europe in 2015 concerned abductions by a parent.  Ten years after the Regulation entered into application, the European Commission is presenting a set of amendments to this Regulation.

Missing Children Europe welcomes these amendments, which are necessary to remedy a set of important shortcomings for the operation of the Regulation.

  • The proposed amendments aim to ensure a more efficient return procedure with several concrete improvements related to the enforcement of the decisions, a clarification of the time limits for issuing an enforceable return and an obligation for Member States to concentrate jurisdiction. Enhancing the efficiency of the Regulation for the return of abducted children is of vital importance: research has shown that the amount of time needed to solve these cases is too long [1] and increasing [2].

  • The proposals oblige Member States to conduct a thorough examination of the best interest of the child. The revision foresees that every child who is capable of forming his or her own views will be guaranteed an opportunity to express these views in all proceedings concerning them, even if they are not physically present (e.g. through video conference). The proposal includes a distinction between the question of when a child should be given the opportunity to be heard on the one hand (when capable of expressing their own views) and the question of what weight the judge shall give to the child’s views on the other hand (related to age and maturity). 

Missing Children Europe is currently involved in a research project on the well-being of abducted children and hopes these results will further help judges in evaluating the best interest of the child in cases of international child abduction [3]This is an important issue, since a high proportion of abducted children reported suffering very significant effects from their abduction.

  • Missing Children Europe furthermore welcomes the proposal that all administrative and judicial authorities should consider the possibility of achieving amicable solutions through mediation and encourages Member States to set up structures to systematically include the offer of mediation in return cases. Good examples such as those applicable in the Netherlands are proving their value. Research has shown that mediation is cheaper and quicker than court litigation [4].

  • Missing Children Europe also welcomes the measures proposed in order to intensify cross-border collaboration between Central Authorities, between judges and with other international networks and structures.

    • Missing Children Europe manages a network of Cross Border Family Mediators, in cooperation with Child Focus (Belgium) and Mikk (Germany). 75% of all mediated cases in 2015 were undertaken between two EU Member States. Two third of the cases resulted in a full or partial agreement.

    • Finally, Missing Children Europe stresses the importance of the obligation that Member States must provide adequate financial and human resources to enable Central Authorities to carry out their obligations.


    [1] International child abduction by parents to and from Belgium in 2007 and 2008, T. Kruger, 2010

    [2] A statistical analysis of applications made in 2008 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the civil aspects of an international child abduction, N. Lowe, 2011

    [3] Parental abduction: the long term effects, M. Freeman, 2014

    [4] Rebooting the mediation Directive, European Parliament, 2014

     

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