Speech by Česlovas Jurđënas, Speaker of the Seimas, at the Trilateral Conference Fight Against Trafficking in Human Beings of the Baltic Assembly, Nordic Council and Benelux Parliament


Riga, 25 April 2008


Dear participants, ladies and gentlemen!


First of all, I would like to congratulate you all who got together to discuss a very acute problem relevant to the European Union as well as to thank the hosts the Saeima of Latvia for professional and thoughtful organisation of the event.


Slavery and trafficking in human beings as well as any serfdom as an official policy and legal business have been abolished long ago; but even today in the 21st century this appalling phenomenon is continuing to cause headaches for organisations promoting democracy and human rights. After getting rid of the totalitarian and authoritarian regimes violating human rights day by day, East European states have been somewhat slow to understand that the free world has merely a beautiful exterior. When the politicians were just cautiously talking about the integration of the continent following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the criminal world on both sides of this Wall was quick to come to mutual understanding and swung into action. Wide economic gap between the West and the East and unemployment emerging in newly liberated countries have produced a favourable environment for shady business dealings, smuggling, trafficking in human beings and other violations of human rights. Both West Europe and its Eastern neighbours have underrated the potential scope of these crimes; therefore, today we can enjoy the achievements, which are far from being strategic.


Criminals are quicker to adapt to new challenges than states or public institutions restrained by laws, lack of coordination, and an opportunity to ensure the security for victims of trafficking and their close ones, and thus to gain their trust. Therefore, it is inspiring that this Conference was quite efficiently organised following the dramatic eastward expansion of the Schengen area and the removal of the last roadblock between the old and new European Union Member States.


There is no doubt that the expansion of the Schengen area is enthusiastically welcomed by the traffickers in human beings as border controls have disappeared and transportation risks have decreased. There is a logical conclusion that internal and international cooperation among the institutions fighting against this wrong must improve in its quality. For some time, this cooperation have been downgraded by the insufficient alignment of the legislation between the new EU Member States and Brussels as well as the humble experience of international relations among law enforcement institutions.


Presently, things took a turn quite for the better. By implementing the decision of the European Union of 19 July 2002 on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Lithuania has amended the Criminal Code and gave the green light to a special Programme for the Prevention and Control of Trafficking in Human Beings. The latter has already produced positive results. The Police Department has established a special unit to assist in investigations in human trafficking, while the prosecution system, in this respect, has appointed prosecutors to specialise in investigation, management and control matters. I would also like to mention here the successful cooperation between the Lithuanian agencies and English officers. Joint investigation groups have successfully performed pre-trial investigations in trafficking women into prostitution to England, while the court proceedings in both countries resulted in a guilty verdict for the recruiters and perpetrators. Similar cooperation was carried out with Germany, Benelux, neighbouring Latvia and other countries.


Recent statistics show reduction in human trafficking in Lithuania, which is the result of the prevention measures jointly taken by the state and NGOs as well as the cases successfully decided by law enforcement bodies (the police and prosecutor’s office). The pronounced sentences has met with a broad response and came as a blow to the reputation of various “beauty” firms engaged in trafficking girls for the rich Gulf Arabs as well. Prevention and criminal prosecution will be effective only when operated in tandem.


Our country is regarded as an export and transit country for human trafficking, thus, our hunts focus on the West. Now, when Lithuania starts facing the lack of labour force and receives more labour immigrants, our state is likely to turn into a country of import for the non-Schengen area. This should also be seen as a concern by the other EU states of the new wave of accession.


Similarly, we deal with the domestic “village-to-city” problem, when girls from towns and villages come to the city to try their fortune making themselves easy prey for swindlers.


Usually, in efforts against trafficking in human beings, the emphasis is laid on the cooperation between export and import countries, relatively, between Eastern and Western law enforcement. In practice, however, most of the buyers and exploiters of “white female slaves” in Great Britain, Germany and other countries are not criminals, who are residents of the country, but rather legal and illegal immigrants from within and outside the new Schengen area. Therefore, cooperation should also be improved essentially among the countries of Central Europe, since their institutions most probably possess information on the criminal structures of their citizens abroad.


In a nutshell, I have read some of the conference reports and learnt about the experience of the Latvian colleagues and all the material will be studied thoroughly at home to be used at work. In principle, I agree with the final draft document. I believe our meeting will bear fruit and contribute to a better protection of human rights through international efforts.


Thank you for your attention.


 © Office of the Seimas, 2008