Scope and applicationEdit

A convention on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and co-operation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children

With the signature and ratification by the Member States of the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, the European Union would be contributing to the protection of children at international level.

The 1996 Convention, which entered into force on the international plane on 1 January 2002, has huge potential to bring justice and relief to parents and children dispersed over EU territory and third States of all continents, including countries from within the Islamic tradition (Morocco is already a Party to the 1996 Convention). It will help prevent international child abduction and provide a secure legal framework for cross-border contact between children and their parents when families separate. It will help, worldwide, to establish a framework for the co-ordination of legal systems, and for international judicial and administrative co-operation, which will further many objectives of the almost universally ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children of 20 November 1989, and complement the widely ratified Hague Conventions of 25 October 1980 on Child Abduction and of 29 May 1993 on Inter-country Adoption.

General BackgroundEdit

The Hague Children’s ConventionsEdit

The Hague Conference has, for more than a century, concerned itself with the protection under civil law of children at risk in cross-frontier situations. During the last part of the 20th century, the opening up of national borders, ease of travel and the breaking down of cultural barriers have, with all their advantages, increased those risks considerably. The cross-border trafficking and exploitation of children and their international displacement from war civil disturbance or natural disaster have become major problems.

There are also children caught in the turmoil of broken relationships within transnational families, with disputes over custody and relocation, with the hazards of international parental abduction, the problems of maintaining contact between the child and both parents, and the uphill struggle of securing cross-frontier child support. There has also been an upsurge in the cross-border placement of children through intercountry adoption or shorter term arrangements, with the risks inherent in a situation where some countries find it difficult to ensure family care for all of their children while in others the demand for children from childless couples grows. Three Hague Children’s Conventions have been developed over the last twenty-five years, a fundamental purpose being to provide the practical machinery to enable States which share a common interest in protecting children to co-operate together to do so.

The 1996 ConventionEdit

The third of the modern Hague Conventions, the Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, is much broader in scope than the first two, covering as it does a very wide range of civil measures of protection concerning children, from orders concerning parental responsibility and contact to public measures of protection or care, and from matters of representation to the protection of children’s property. It also covers:

  • Parental disputes over custody and contact
  • Reinforcement of the 1980 Child Abduction Convention
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Cross-frontier placements of children

Delay in implementation in the European UnionEdit

Speaking in the House of Commons about its non ratification, Sir John Stanley said:

"Why has the 1996 Hague convention, a vital convention for the protection of children, not been ratified so far by the EU? The answer is one word, and that word, extraordinarily and reprehensibly, is Gibraltar. It is because the British Government and the Spanish Government are unable to agree on how the 1996 convention should be operated within Gibraltar that children throughout the world are being denied the crucial protection and fundamental rights that they would otherwise have under the 1996 Hague convention."
"It is because of the dispute over Gibraltar and how the convention should be operated in Gibraltar that, although the Hague convention came into force in January 2002, now—four and a half years later—we still have no EU ratification." [1]

The Government of Spain continues to veto EU measures[2] which include Gibraltar, because of its sovereignty claim to the territory. Despite the successful resolution of some other disputes, Spanish concerns over having to communicate with competent authorities in Gibraltar continue in 2007 to delay ratification of this important treaty. [3]

States implementing the conventionEdit

As of 1 March 2006, the Convention is in force for the following States:

Australia, The Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, Morocco, Slovakia and Slovenia.

It has been signed by all other EU States (except Malta) and Switzerland.

Hungary ratified the Convention on 13 January 2006 (entry into force 1 May 2006);

Bulgaria acceded to the Convention on 8 March 2006 (entry into force: 1 February 2007).

External linksEdit


  1. Statement in the UK parliament [1]
  2. Seventh Congress on Democracy [2]
  3. Press release

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