The Smile of the Child
Member: NGO Premium
Voluntary Children's Association
10, Zinonos Eleatou Street, GR-151 24 Maroussi, Athens, Greece
European embassies and “The Smile of the Child” form a strong partnership
HE Lucian Fătu, Ambassador of Romania to Greece, currently holding the EU Council Presidency, hosted a meeting on the 19th of March 2019 at the premises of the Romanian Embassy in which Ambassadors, Consuls, diplomatic and consular staff from EU Member States, the Western Balkans and countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership reflected together with representatives of “The Smile of the Child” on ways to deepen and further their cooperation.
The leading principle for “The Smile of the Child” is that all children in need are to be helped, regardless of their nationality, origin, religion or any other criterion. Representatives of missions had the opportunity to enrich their knowledge on the work and specific services of ‘The Smile of the Child’. The Organization and diplomatic missions jointly identified their needs and the potential area for a two-way cooperation and evaluated past experience and good practices in the effective management of specific cases of children in need.
In his welcome speech, HE the Ambassador of Romania, Mr. Lucian Fătu said: “The credit for the initiative of this meeting belongs to “The Smile of the Child”. I am grateful to President Yannopoulos, and to my former colleague, Belgian Ambassador Marc Van Den Reeck, for entrusting the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council with hosting this platform of information, networking and shared experiences. I am confident that the initiative will produce tangible results and will create valuable patterns of cooperation”.
The President of ‘The Smile of the Child”, Costas Yannopoulos warmly thanked the Embassy of Romania for organizing the event and the foreign missions in Greece for their participation. “It is extremely important to share common values and practices for the benefit of children. Today’s meeting strengthens our already strong bilateral relationship and ensures that we can effectively cooperate, mobilize our services immediately and offer solutions in the best interest of children”, he noted.
In addition, Mr. Yannopoulos referred to particular cases of children, including cases of abused/ neglected children, missing children, trafficked or otherwise exploited children, separated children, as well as family reunification cases, which thanks to the close cooperation with Embassies and Consular missions had positive outcomes for the lives of children.
Ambassador (H) Marc Van den Reeck, Head of International Cooperation at “The Smile of the Child”, presented the international dimension of the work of the Organization through its participation in the international fora, while he highlighted the preparedness of the Organization to share experience and insights with Diplomatic Missions even beyond the framework of specific consular cases.
The scientific and field staff of “The Smile of the Child” presented the actions of the Organization, as well as the infrastructure and services for children at risk, including the operation of the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056, the European Hotline for Missing Children 116000 and the European Helpline for Children & Adolescents 11611, all three interconnected with the 112 European Emergency Number, the Mobile Medical Units of Intensive Care for Children and Newborns and the operation of a mixed model of 11 Homes across Greece. Today, 69 children (19 of which come from countries outside the European Union) being raised in the Homes of the Organization, on the basis of being victims of abuse, severe neglect and/or exploitation, are from countries other than Greece.
The Consul of the British Embassy, Gary Nicholls and the German Embassy Counsellor, Andreas Kehrbach offered their respective mission’s testimonies, sharing concrete examples of cooperation, referral and management of cases that required immediate attention and involvement of consular services and the operational capabilities of “The Smile of the Child”.
Apart from emergency and life-saving interventions participants also identified key issues and challenges in the context of this relationship, including the need of cooperation for issuing or certifying documentation, child custody issues, transfers to a country of origin, family reunification, as well as the difficulties in searching for biological parents. Upon the conclusion of the meeting all participants expressed their belief in the effectiveness of joining forces in order to manage cases of children at risk who reside in Greece.