Over 40 experts from 10 European Member States are attending the ‘Salzburg Forum Law Enforcement Expert meeting on Missing Children’ in Prague. Goal of the meeting is for experts to meet their colleagues in neighbouring countries, build relationships and exchange best practices.

The expert meeting is organised on 29-30 May by the Ministry of the Interior and Police of The Czech Republic in cooperation with AMBER Alert Europe.

Europe calls for better protection of missing children

In addition to participants from the Salzburg Forum Member States, the meeting is attended by representatives from Malta, the current President of the EU Council, The Netherlands, initiator of an EU police network of missing persons experts.

One of the key speakers is Member of the European Parliament, Tomas Zdechovsky (CZ, EPP), who successfully initiated a Written Declaration to save more missing children in the EU. The Declaration was signed by 465 Members of the European Parliament, making it the most successful Declaration since 2011. Mr. Zdechovsky: “The only solution to the problem is a quick response. That is however not always possible, since 37,5 % of Europeans live in border regions and the search operation is often halted at the inner border. During the Salzburg Forum meeting, we agreed that we are facing mainly two challenges: to get support from the remaining Member States and to prompt the European Commission to act more actively in this regard. This is where our activity will be directed towards.”

Quickly identifying risk saves lives

A special emphasis of this two-day event will be given to a training by Charlie Hedges, AMBER Alert Europe’s missing children police expert. The training focusses on a quick identification of risk in the case of missing children. A quick risk assessment is crucial to identify the correct response, for example to save a child whose life is in immediate danger.

Nine Central and Eastern European Countries agree on enhanced cooperation

The expert meeting in Prague is the result of the Joint Declaration adopted by the Ministers of the Interior of all nine Salzburg Forum Member States. On 3 and 4 November 2016, the nine Ministers acknowledged the urgent need for new solutions and improvements in the search for missing children, including a better use of citizens’ assistance and an effective inter-agency cooperation.

As, Milan Chovanec, Minister of the Interior of the Czech Republic stated: “In most of the European countries, including the Salzburg Forum Member States, the state border is easy to reach. When a child goes missing, quick and effective cross-border information exchange between national law enforcement authorities and other expert bodies is therefore crucial. Since every endangered missing child deserves an equal chance of being found as quickly as possible, this must not be inhibited by them crossing borders.”

The Joint Declaration was signed by Ministers of the Interior from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.