The fight against child sexual abuse is a priority for the EU. The EU strategy for the period 2020-2025 sets out a comprehensive response to the growing threat of child sexual abuse both offline and online, by improving prevention, investigation, and assistance to victims.
The EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuseincludes 8 initiatives to put in place a strong legal framework for the protection of children and facilitate a coordinated approach across the many actors involved in protecting and supporting children.
The 8 initiatives aim to:
- ensure complete implementation of the current rules (particularly Directive 2011/93/EU on combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children)
- ensure that EU laws enable an effective response
- identify legislative gaps, best practices and priority actions
- strengthen the law enforcement efforts at national and EU level
- enable EU countries to better protect children through prevention
- establish a European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse
- galvanise industry efforts to ensure the protection of children in their products
- improve protection of children globally through multi-stakeholder cooperation
The Commission will ensure that the EU has the right legal framework to protect children. Where needed, the Commission will propose new legislation, particularly to clarify the role that online service providers can play to protect children. The Commission will also support national police forces to keep up with technological developments.
The strategy also sets out initiatives to boost coordination, including a prevention network for practitioners and researchers, examining the possibility to create a European Centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse, cooperating with industry through the EU Internet Forum and supporting the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online.
Legal framework to protect children
The strategy will ensure that existing EU rules are fully implemented, particularly Directive on combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children. In 2019, the Commission was compelled to open infringements procedures against 23 EU countries for non-compliance with implementing the directive. They followed the publication of two reports in 2016, which provided an overview on the progress made and showed that the Directive had not yet reached its full potential through complete implementation by the EU countries
The Commission will address possible gaps in the current laws, starting with a study to identify the remaining issues, as well as best practices and priority measures to tackle them.
The Commission will propose new legislation where needed, particularly to clarify the role that online service providers can play to protect children. In 2020, the Commission proposed an interim Regulation to ensure that providers of online communications services can continue their voluntary practices to detect and report child sexual abuse online and remove child sexual abuse material. The regulation is on the way to adoption following a political agreement achieved with the European Parliament and the Council.
Cooperation and funding
- The Commission works closely with the EU’s agencies for law enforcement and judicial cooperation, Europoland Eurojust, as well as with the INHOPE network of hotlines, where users can report child sexual abuse materials they encounter online.
- The Commission also promotes child safety online more generally through its Better Internet for Kids initiative.
- Network for prevention of child sexual abuse, launched as one of the initiatives of the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, serves as a point of intersection between practitioners and academics, to inform and fuel research on prevention, and facilitates cooperation with partners globally.
- The Commission supports global coordination through the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online, a multi-stakeholder organisation bringing together 98 governments, 41 companies, 44 civil society organisations and international institutions.
- TheEU Internet Forum, which gathers EU Home Affairs Ministers, the internet industry and other stakeholders to collaborate together voluntarily to combat the child sexual abuse threat.
The Commission also provides funding for projects fighting child sexual abuse. The Commission has funded, amongst others:
- the INHOPE network
- the International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE)database at Interpol, which enables the identification of victims globally
- training for practitioners, research and development new forensic approaches
- and systems for operational priority setting.
The Commission organises regular calls for proposals to fight the online and offline aspects of child sexual abuse under both Internal Security Fundand Horizon Europe framework program for research and innovation.
- Directive EU 2011/93 on combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children
- Report on the assessment of the Directive EU 2011/93
- Report on Article 25 of the Directive EU 2011/93
- Proposal for a Regulation on a temporary derogation from certain provisions of the e-Privacy Directive for the purpose of combatting child sexual abuse online.
- European Parliament resolution: Children rights in occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Council conclusions on combating the sexual abuse of children