Intense efforts are underway to introduce legislation harmonising Cyprus with EU laws on sexual exploitation and abuse of children in order to increase public safety and avoid costly fines, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said yesterday.
Commenting on media reports that Cyprus is about to be severely penalised by the EU for delaying to amend its child protection laws, Hasikos (photo) said the issue is being treated as a matter of urgency.
The Ministry submitted to the House on January 8 a proposal to harmonise national law on abuse and exploitation of children as well as human trafficking with EU legislation.
However, during the first meeting to discuss the bill on February 3, the House Human Rights Committee submitted a new proposal for the creation of separate legislation for both issues which is still under examination.
Hasikos assured that the proposal is now being reviewed as a matter of urgency by the Legal Services and will be submitted to the House as soon as possible.
“A grace period has been granted and fines will be avoided if the laws are introduced separately without further delay,” said the minister.
Hasikos’ announcement comes a day after the publication of media interviews with University of Nicosia Law Lecturer Antonis Stylianou who said Cyprus is only steps away from being slapped with fines of up to €8,000 per day over the delays.
According to Stylianou, Cyprus was initially given until December 18, 2013 as a deadline to transpose EU legislation into national law that aims to better define and categorise offences against children, introduce protective measures and enforce heavier penalties for the most severe crimes.
“This deadline and the next one set on March 21, 2014 were not met,” said Stylianou.
“Unfortunately there have been many delays and Cyprus is not acting in the best interest of children.”
Objections over the initial plan to introduce one law covering crimes against children and human trafficking were put forward by Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumba, MPs and non-governmental organisations.
“Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children are two very different matters which must be introduced into law separately,” said Koursoumba.
“The police force and Immigration Department oversee matters of human trafficking but they are not qualified to handle child abuse cases.”
New child protection laws were agreed by the Council of Europe and European Parliament and written into law in 2013 while member states were given two years to transpose the directive into national law.
The legislation penalises sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children as well as child pornography across the EU by harmonising around 20 relevant criminal offences and setting thresholds for maximum penalties. It also strikes hard at sex tourism and child pornography on the internet.