September 28, 2007 / 11:38 AM / 13 years ago

EU mulls alert system for missing children

A poster of missing girl Madeleine McCann is displayed on the church door of Praia da Luz beach resort in the southern Portuguese province of Algarve August 7, 2007. Portugal will push next week for the creation of an EU-wide alert system for missing children, five months after four-year-old McCann went missing in a holiday resort in the south of the country. REUTERS/Virgilio Rodrigues

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Portugal will push next week for the creation of an EU-wide alert system for missing children, five months after four-year-old Madeleine McCann went missing in a holiday resort in the south of the country.

Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will ask the bloc’s justice and home affairs ministers, meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Lisbon, if they want to expand to all 27 countries a new French alert system involving a nationwide media campaign and messages in stations and on motorways.

“In a Europe without borders ... when a kid disappears in France, maybe he’s not in France anymore, maybe in Germany, or any other EU country,” an EU Presidency official said. “The alert could be given also in Finland, Spain, Portugal...”

The official said if ministers backed the idea at the Lisbon meeting, experts would start working on how to set it up, but could not say when the system would be operational.

Ministers will also be asked whether they want to create an EU-wide electronic list of missing children and if only the police and the judiciary would have access to it or if it would be open to everybody, the official said.

Madeleine McCann went missing on May 3 while her family were on holiday in Portugal triggering an international search and a high-profile media campaign.

Portuguese police have named her parents as suspects, but parents Kate and Gerry McCann deny any involvement and say they believe Madeleine is still alive.

Asked whether this case had prompted the plan for an EU-alert system, the official said: “One should not draw a link with the McCann case, there are cases of missing children all over Europe.”

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