Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe: Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings
last updated September 1, 2005

The Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe was adopted by European Union initiative in 1999 with the aim of strengthening the countries in Southeastern Europe "in their efforts to foster peace, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity in order to achieve stability in the whole region."  The Stability Pact partners include the European Union member States, countries in the region (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Moldova), non-EU members of the G-8 (U.S., Canada, Japan and Russia), Norway, Switzerland, other international organizations, such as the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, NATO, and world financial institutions, such as the World Bank.  The work of the Stability Pact is organized under three Working Tables; the first addresses democratization and human rights, the second addresses economic reconstruction and the third focuses on security issues.  The Stability Pact addresses the problem of trafficking through the Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings, whose work arguably fits under both Working Table I and III.

The Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings is the division of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe (SEE), which serves a clearinghouse function, gathering the expertise of different institutions and experts dealing with trafficking in human beings.  The Task Force is then able to provide governments with a comprehensive understanding of the inter-related challenges poised by the problem of trafficking as well as best practices for anti-trafficking activities.  While the Task Force does not create law, it has formulated important policy on national and regional counter-measures.  The focus of the work of the Task Force is on seven areas of concern: awareness raising; training and exchange programs; law enforcement co-operation; victim protection programs; return and reintegration assistance; relevant legislative reform; and prevention.  Although the Task Force on Trafficking works closely with the governments of southeastern European nations, its policy and recommendations provide useful guidance for the creation of anti-trafficking law and initiatives in other regions.

In December 2000, the Anti-Trafficking Declaration of SEE was signed at a Regional Ministerial Forum in Palermo, Italy by Government Ministers and representatives of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, Montenegro and Kosovo.  The Anti-Trafficking Declaration creates no legal obligations but is a politically important document for the signatory countries.  By signing the Anti-Trafficking Declaration, the signatories "underline the responsibility of the States to address the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings by implementing effective programs of prevention, victim assistance and protection, legislative reform, law enforcement and prosecution of traffickers."  The Anti-Trafficking Declaration also sets forth the commitment to coordinate national efforts and to exchange information about national actions. 

The Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings issued guidelines for national action plans to combat trafficking in human beings in order to assist the signatory nations in addressing the problem of trafficking in each county.  Thus, subsequent to signing the Anti-Trafficking Declaration, the governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Moldova and Romania all created National Plans of Action which provide an analysis of the problem of trafficking in women in each country, an overview of existing legislation and set forth specific actions to be taken by government structures.

In 2001, the Task Force created the Multiyear Anti-Trafficking Action Plan for South Eastern Europe, which outlines a co-coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to combating trafficking in the region.  The Action Plan describes a core cluster of projects aimed at victim protection and intended to be implemented cooperatively by the Task Force, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and local NGOs.  These core projects include the creation of a regional clearing point to collect and analyze information and statistics about current trafficking cases and to monitor the response, the creation of a national referral system to assist trafficked persons, the establishment of shelters and safehouses, strengthening return and repatriation programs and conducting an inventory of the current situation of and responses to trafficking in SEE.  The goal of the Action Plan is to create a "regional network of counter-measures" to enhance the national action plans, with a focus on the protection of victims through the establishment and improvement of shelters and referral systems in the region.  In addition, the Task Force has recognized a need for improved legislation and law enforcement policies as well as the necessity of training and capacity building of relevant professionals. 

Recently, the Task Force and regional government ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo agreed to adopt a victim-centered approach to trafficking..  Previously, they had focused mainly on law enforcement.  At the Third Regional Ministerial Forum of the Task Force, in December 2002, the above-mentioned countries signed a Statement on Commitments to Legalize the Status of Trafficked Persons in which they agreed to improve the protection of trafficking victims, through such actions as: improving the identification of trafficked persons; refraining from immediate deportation of victims of trafficking; referring possible victims to social assistance (shelters, health case, legal advice); granting victims of trafficking status to remain in state's territory temporarily; issuing temporary residence permits until completion of legal proceedings or when appropriate; and developing witness protection programs. 

In September 2003, the Task Forces Counter-Trafficking Regional Clearing Point published its First Annual Report on Victims of Trafficking in Southeastern Europe. The report profiles countries of origin, transit and destination for victims of human trafficking. It assesses each countrys trafficking prevention, victim assistance and victim protection mechanisms as well as its partnership with international and non-governmental organizations. The report also identifies victims by country and profiles them according to their age, marital status and education.