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Strasbourg 17 January 2018
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Our debate today is very timely and I would like to thank once again this House for its continuous active interest and support in our joint fight against this odious phenomenon.
We will agree in this room that when dealing with trafficking in human beings what really counts is actions and results, more than intentions and words.
The modern "slave markets" in Libya and elsewhere, where human beings are bought and sold as cheap commodities will not be stopped if we don’t act now.
The ruthless sick minds who take advantage of innocent children, girls or boys, or hopeless and vulnerable adults, women and men, will continue to make astronomical profits if we don't stop them now.
The pain from the torture and the indelible damage on the victims' bodies and souls will not be repaired if we don't protect and take care of them now.
Unfortunately, the situation is neither new, nor does it happen only in unstable countries. Trafficking also happens right here in Europe.
As is rightly pointed out in your question, there is a strong gender dimension in the picture, while the available data does not capture the real magnitude of this phenomenon.
It is also true that these desperate human beings are usually exploited for sexual or labour proposes.
Therefore, what is now needed is exactly to focus on the specific characteristics of this crime and tackle them with the proper tools.
Let's be frank, however. The actual fight against trafficking in human beings is not fought here, by the European Institutions.
It is on the ground, and it is Member States' authorities that need to deliver, where needed by joined efforts.
Of course, the Commission will continue supporting efforts in these operational endeavours.
A demonstrative example of joint efforts can be seen in the information provided by Europol.
From 2016 until early December 2017:
- 2476 new human trafficking cases were referred to Europol
- 10664 potential victims were registered, the majority of which EU nationals,
- 10449 suspects have been signalled in its database, the majority of whom again were EU nationals.
All these years, through an ambitious and progressive approach, we have managed in the EU to create a solid legal and policy framework, which has brought Europe in the frontline of the global efforts.
Now it is time, on the one hand, to fully implement and enforce our strong and modern legal armoury, and on the other hand, to step up our efforts with targeted and focused action.
My personal aim is to bring tangible results, to be as much as possible operational, to make a difference on the ground.
This is the reason why last December, I presented a list of further concrete measures to step up our action to disrupt the modus operandi of traffickers, to strengthen victims' rights and protection, to intensify internal and external efforts in a coordinated manner, as well as to widen our knowledge base and to provide targeted financial support.
We will monitor progress on the actions set out and will report on progress to this House and the Council already by the end of 2018.
EU-wide updated statistical data on this phenomenon will also be made available in the next Progress Report in 2018, including on: gender dimension, children affected and forms of exploitation.
We are now examining very closely how Member States comply with the EU anti-trafficking directive and we will not hesitate initiating infringement procedures, if needed.
On labour inspections, the Commission will come soon with the second report on the implementation of the Employers' Sanction Directive.
Moreover, gender plays a pivotal role in our new set of actions.
In this respect, we will work closely with the European Institute for Gender Equality to deliver practical guidance to Member States on how to implement the provisions of the Anti-trafficking Directive on assistance and protection from a gender perspective.
In terms of resources allocated and funding on the gender dimension, the Commission’s Comprehensive Policy Review (2016) demonstrated that almost 20 % of funded projects were gender-specific in the period 2004-2015.
Future funding priorities by the Commission will ensure that the gender dimension is duly addressed.
In that respect, the last call under the Internal Security Fund and Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund places priority on the gender dimension.
Finally, the next Progress Report will also provide an update on the EU wide-progress made at investigative efforts, based on Member States' information covering the period 2015-2017.
I am looking forward with great interest to your views.
We are all on the same side to give an end to this odious phenomenon.
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Thank you for the interesting debate and your useful contributions.
Over the years, the EU and the Member States have demonstrated a strong commitment to crack down on unscrupulous criminals, to prevent the crime and most importantly, to protect the victims.
We have developed robust EU legislation and policy approach.
Now, we have to ensure full compliance with EU law and be more operational with our work.
Only if we all work together the Presidency of the Council, Member States, the European Parliament, civil society, and our Agencies we can make a difference on the ground and we are determined to do so.
I can only assure you that the Commission is committed to reinvigorating efforts and that the new set of priority actions are already being implemented.
Me personally, I am committed to deliver on that.
I would be happy to inform the European Parliament later this year on progress achieved.