Summary: The European Commission adopted, on December 9, a Communication in which it puts forward a series of actions in the fight against trafficking in women. The main thrust of the Communication is to encourage Member States to implement their legal obligations and to reinforce international cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination. The purpose is also to send a clear message to the candidate countries of the need to take national measures and to cooperate with the EU already now on this issue. The Communication suggests a number of action points in order to take the fight against trafficking further, both in the Member States, on an EU level and internationally. For its part, the Commission intends to make a proposal next year for legislative action regarding temporary permits of stay for victims who are ready to act as witnesses. It will also produce a Communication on assistance to victims, including victims of trafficking.

The Communication was presented on the initiative of Commissioner Anita Gradin, responsible for Justice and Home Affairs. It is a follow-up to the Communication adopted by the Commission in November 1996. It indicates the state of play in the fight against trafficking and the implementation of various action points in the 1996 Communication. The objective is also to identify the main shortcomings and to recommend a number of new initiatives. "In 1996, trafficking in women had only started to be seen by governments and the public opinion as a serious violation of women's human rights. Since then public awareness and international cooperation has increased considerably. Actions have been initiated both by the EU and by other international organisations, such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the G-8. This global recognition of the problem is gratifying", said Mrs Gradin. All Member States are to a greater or lesser extent affected by trafficking in women. Often the trafficked women are forced into prostitution in conditions akin to slavery. The main flow comes from or through the candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Law enforcement officials of several Member States have noted the appearance of major criminal networks in this area as well as links with other forms of crime. This is a worrying trend for the EU, and explains the need for further common actions. This second Communication should also be seen in a broader context as outlined in the Action Plan against...

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