Cooperation – among governments, non-governmental organizations, legislators, courts and legal practitioners – is the key to combating the spread of child pornography on the Internet and the sexual exploitation of minors. That was the overriding message from speakers at the Second European Meeting of Legal Practitioners in Relation to Minors, held at the Stathatos Mansion in Athens yesterday. A high-powered group of judges, prosecutors, police officials and criminologists from the 15 European Union member states gathered to thrash out a common approach by sharing expertise and best practice. The meeting was organized by the Foundation for the Child and the Family, under the auspices of the Greek Justice Ministry, and with the support of the European Commission. «Today’s meeting is in response to the need for cooperation, collective effort and coordination at a European level,» said Marianna Vardinoyianni, UNESCO goodwill ambassador and president of the Greek branch of the Foundation for the Child and the Family, in her opening address. Speaking to the press later, Vardinoyianni emphasized the role of the mass media in raising public awareness of the vital need to protect children. «No matter how many meetings and conferences we hold,» she said, «unless children become aware, parents are informed and public opinion sensitized – which only the media can ensure – the result will be inadequate.» On the agenda for the morning session, moderated by Kalliopi Spinelli, professor of criminology at Athens Law School, were the legal definitions of crimes associated with child pornography on the Internet, tracking down pornographic websites, the profile of offenders and preventive policies. The afternoon session, moderated by Yvon Tallec, deputy prosecutor and chief of prosecution for the Paris Juvenile Court, focused on policies for prosecuting pimps and their clients, sexual tourism, cooperation among countries in connection with the prostitution of minors, the difficulties of identifying victims, responsibility for minors and preventive measures. Greek Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, his French counterpart Dominique Perben and Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis all affirmed that there is the political will needed to act effectively on protecting minors, especially through measures to prevent trafficking in minors. They noted a need to update the relevant legislation, and Petsalnikos referred to a Greek law passed in 2002 to cover certain crimes against minors which the legal code had previously ignored. He vowed that Greece would use its six-month EU presidency to promote measures protecting children. Several speakers highlighted the role of NGOs in promoting the welfare of minors. «Organizations like the Foundation for the Child and the Family can play a significant role by exchanging information and drafting proposals for the formulation of a timely, modern and effective European policy,» said Chrysochoidis, adding, «These are early days for EU policy on minors.» Perben emphasized the need to combat recidivism by the provision of support services for offenders. He also highlighted the role of the media in «reinforcing vigilance by making the public, especially children, aware.» «What is needed is cross-border cooperation,» said Peter Vowe, local and national police director for Interpol, who commented that the numbers of victims, laws and police officers, had essentially remained the same.