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Strategy against human trafficking and support to women researchers
Two very different recent interventions by the Commission devote special attention to the social and cultural planes. The first concerns the fight on human trafficking, which, despite courageous initiatives at national level, remains a serious and widespread problem in the EU. The second regards the presence of young researchers in scientific laboratories and European academies.
Slavery in Europe today. “Unfortunately slavery hasn’t yet been left to the history books. It is appalling to see that in our times human beings are still being put up for sale and being trafficked into forced labour or prostitution”. Cecilia Malmström, Home Affairs Commissioner, presenting in Brussels the “EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016)”, dedicated her reflections on the trafficking on children, women and men of all ages in the world and in the old Continent. The strategy proposed by the Executive, due to be submitted to EU Council and Parliament for approval, includes “a set of concrete and practical measures to be implemented over the next five years. These include the establishment of national law enforcement units specialised in human trafficking and the creation of joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases”. The Swedish Commissioner added: “Ensuring that victims can get support and bringing traffickers to justice is at the heart of our actions”.
Prostitution, organ transplants. The Commission pointed out, “Hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked in the EU every year”. Most of them are people in vulnerable positions who are traded for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation, removal of organs, begging, domestic servitude, forced marriage, illegal adoption as well as other forms of exploitation. The EU executive identifies a set of priorities (that correspond to concrete initiatives), which include: Supporting the establishment of national law enforcement units specialised in human trafficking; creating joint investigation teams and involving Europol and Eurojust; providing clear information to victims on their rights under EU law and national legislation; establishing a European Business Coalition against trafficking in Human Beings to improve cooperation between companies and stakeholders; supporting research projects examining the Internet and social networks as increasingly popular recruitment tools for traffickers”. Estimates (with the sole official data) presented by the International Labour Organization put the number of “victims of forced labour, including forced sexual exploitation, at 20.9 million worldwide. 5.5 million of them are children”. According to Europol, children forced into criminal activities, such as organised begging and shoplifting, are being traded as commodities with €20 000 price tags”.
“Science: a girl thing”. Science is not about old men in white coats. It provides career opportunities and the possibility of giving a crucial contribution to our future and to our society”. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science a few days ago presented the figures on EU27 which shows there is still “an under-representation of women” in the areas of research and innovation. For example, women “account for only one third of career researchers”. Hence the Commission’s decision to launch a three-year campaign to get “teenage girls interested in studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects). The focus will then broaden to female students more generally, encouraging them to consider research careers”. The slogan that will accompany the first part of the campaign will be “Science: it’s a girl thing” http://ec.europa.eu/science-girl-thing/[>>]. Events will be first organised in six countries - Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Poland and will continue with others.
Overcoming old stereotyping. The campaign comes at a time when the European Commission has proposed Horizon 2020, a programme “that would increase EU-level support for research and innovation to €80billion” for the next seven years from €55 billion in the current seven-year budget. For Geoghegan-Quinn the EU “the European Union will be needing up to one million additional researchers by 2020”. The campaign willwill challenge stereotypes of science and show young girls and women that science is fun and can provide great opportunities. It will challenge outdated views of science careers”. Research and innovation “are the key to finding concrete solutions to common challenges, such as food and energy security, the environment or better healthcare