(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first of all say what an honour it is to speak to you on a topic so close to my heart, and one that I have closely followed for many years.
As Pope Francis has said, trafficking is a modern form of slavery and a violation of human rights. Statistics show that in the EU, sexual exploitation is the most widespread form of human trafficking, 69 per cent, and women and girls make up the overwhelming majority of all victims, at 95 per cent. Behind these figures are the stories and fates of women and girls in search of a better life.
In my position and in my travels around the world, I have sometimes met children who have been victims of trafficking. These experiences marked me as a mother and as a Queen. I realised that it is difficult to achieve real change as individuals, but together it really is possible to take major steps forward.
We can all contribute in different ways in our roles. In 1999 we founded World Childhood Foundation, with the mission to work towards better living conditions for children all over the world, also in Lithuania.
As neighbouring countries we share many challenges. I have seen for myself how international cooperation is crucial for success in combating trafficking. We need to work together – law-makers, governments, civil society, parents – and learn from each other about how to prevent trafficking and provide protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking.
We often explain trafficking as a consequence of poverty and social vulnerability. But trafficking of human beings functions like any commercial business: with no demand there is no supply.
Trafficking is a low-risk and high-profit crime and a growing source of income for organised crime. Consequently, the fight against trafficking is a key component in the battle against organised crime. We need to enhance instruments to detect the crime, identify those involved, protect and rehabilitate victims and prosecute the traffickers.
I hope this roundtable can contribute to renewed efforts in the collaboration between our countries to prevent trafficking. I wish you the best of luck.