Thank you, Mr President. I echo your words of
appreciation to our Deputy Secretary General, Maud De Boer Buquicchio, who
has guided us towards a position of activism on building Europe for and with
children, which is most appreciated. I also thank Her Royal Highness for
coming here to share her deep knowledge of the issue.
We appreciate her continued co-operation with the Council of Europe. Many
thanks to Ann Veneman. We want to co-operate closely with UNICEF and we need
its support for our work in this continent. We hope that UNICEF will
continue to take a strong and principled position on violence against
children, including violence in the home, and especially with regard to
I also give warm thanks to Professor Pinheiro, who will launch his important
report in Europe in a moment. He is an expert for the United Nations.
Importantly, his report says that the elimination of violence against
children requires strong political leadership and determined advocacy by
civil society. The report also says that there should be no more excuses or
delays and that the problem is out in the open, that the obligations of
governments are clear and that the means to deal with the situation are
known, affordable and available.
We have international and European norms for the rights of the child,
including that of protection against violence. We know that there are
continued violations of those rights, so we should focus on implementation
and enforcement. The first necessary step towards preventing violence is to
ban legally any violence against children, whether that takes place in
school, in an institution, or at home.
We have good news. Greece recently modified its civil laws to join the
growing number of Council of Europe states that have fully and legally
banned corporal punishment against children. Some 26 countries have either
done that, or have formally committed themselves to a complete prohibition.
The pace of legal reform is gathering momentum as we approach 2009, the year
that has been set for the complete abolition of corporal punishment against
children. We are thus coming closer to the goal of making Europe a
violence-free zone for children.
Law reform is the first step in the process of transforming society and
changing the behaviour of adults. Other means are necessary. The programme
“Building a Europe for and with children” was aimed at encouraging
discussion and education about non-violent relationships and to promote
further awareness of the human rights of children in society. We need to
bridge the gap between words and deeds and between agreed norms and reality.
I pledge as your commissioner to do my best within my mandate to assist
member states to make our continent finally safe for our children.