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9. 10.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 310/105

(98/C 310/140) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0623/98

by Angela Billingham (PSE) to the Commission

(9 March 1998)

Subject: Children and Juvenile Code in Guatemala

Is the European Commission aware that under the present Children’s code in Guatemala, which was established
in 1969, children can be indefinitely locked up ‘for their own benefit’ in dangerous, repressive, ill-equipped
government juvenile detention centres where the use of torture and beatings has been documented? They have no
right to a defence lawyer nor independent appeals.

Could the European Commission bring pressure on the Guatemalan Government to speedily implement the new
Children and Juvenile Code which would make the child a ‘subject’ of law, with a right to legal defence and to
participate in legal proceedings that affect him or her?

(98/C 310/141) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0624/98

by Angela Billingham (PSE) to the Commission

(9 March 1998)

Subject: Plight of Guatemalan street children

Is the Commission aware of the continuing murders of street children in Guatemala? For instance, in two days
last autumn, thirteen youths were murdered on the streets. All of them had been shot through the head.

Could the European Commission confront the Guatemalan Government, requesting them to launch a formal
inquiry into the murders of these children and those murdered in similar circumstances?

Joint answer
to Written Questions E-0623/98 and E-0624/98
given by Mr Marı́n on behalf of the Commission

(17 April 1998)

The Commission thanks the Honourable Member for her interest in the problem of street children and, more
especially, the children’s code in force in Guatemala.

On the subject of this code and its successor (due to enter into force shortly), the Commission believes that the
government’s efforts to ensure actual and effective implementation need to be taken into account. To ensure the
new code is both applied properly and obeyed by the relevant bodies, the government has put in hand a number of
awareness campaigns, staff training courses and activities to prepare these bodies (legal institutions, the national
board for children and youth, and the social welfare secretariat).

On the subject of the children themselves, the Commission is fully aware of the abuses and ill-treatment they
suffer. This complex situation is known to be caused by social and economic factors (large-scale migration to the
capital, breakdown of the family unit, loss of cultural identity and a life without prospects) and the Commission
has been trying to tackle it with an ECU 2.5 million project that has been running since the start of the year.

The project, which has proved very effective, aims to give street children protection and direct assistance so they
can return to normal life. It also sets out to promote activities to keep children away from a life on the streets and
to strengthen the public institutions charged with protecting minors and putting child protection laws into effect
(‘secretarı́a de bienestar social’, juvenile court, human rights ombudsman).
C 310/106 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 9. 10. 98

On this last point, the project has attempted to shelter children from abuse by setting up a unit where any such
incidents can be reported, investigated and dealt with through magistrates and the courts.

Without impinging on national sovereignty, the Commission will continue to use its aid to support government
efforts to protect the young. A project to reform the administration of justice in Guatemala is due to be launched
in an attempt to support those bodies responsible for implementing the law, especially the children’s code.

(98/C 310/142) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0626/98


by Raimo Ilaskivi (PPE) to the Commission
(9 March 1998)

Subject: Charge levied by Russia on motorists crossing the border

According to a newspaper report (Helsingin Sanomat, 17.2.1998), the Russian customs have instituted a charge
on motorists crossing the Finnish-Russian border. The charge is 25 Finmarks, and is levied from all foreigners
crossing the border.

What will the Commission do to secure the abolition of the Russian customs authorities’ latest border levy on
European Union citizens? Let it be stressed that Member States of the European Union do not levy any
corresponding charges from Russian motorists.

Answer given by Mr Van den Broek on behalf of the Commission


(17 April 1998)

The Commission has conducted investigations into the matter raised by the Honourable Member.

It appears that the charge which is levied relates to assistance in completing customs clearance formalities
provided on request to drivers crossing the Finnish-Russian border by a service company linked to the Russian
customs.

According to Russian customs legislation, foreigners crossing the border with their private cars have to
undertake formally to go back by car within one month. After Russian customs introduced a computer based
information system at border crossings, this undertaking is now filled in an electronic form directly at the
computer and not in a paper form by hand.

Drivers have at present two options: they can either go directly to the Russian customs where they can personally
fill in the electronic document free of any charge, or they can seek the assistance of the company against payment
of a 25 finmarks fee. The advantage of the second option is that it normally guarantees quicker clearance of
customs procedures.

This charge is therefore a commercial fee for the provision of an optional service, rather than a special levy on
foreign drivers crossing borders.

(98/C 310/143) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0629/98


by Yves Verwaerde (PPE) to the Commission
(9 March 1998)

Subject: Financial support for an information campaign to publicize Natura 2000

The Commission is cognizant of the fact that certain socio-professional groups (farmers, industrialists,
hunters, etc.) throughout the European Union have voiced strong reservations about the installation of the Natura
2000 network, principally in view of the lack of transparency and information as to the network’s purpose.