Fighting human trafficking: Council agrees position for stronger rules

9 June 2023

The Council has today agreed on its position for an update of the EU’s anti-trafficking law. Forced marriage and illegal adoption will explicitly feature as types of exploitation covered by the directive. EU countries must also make sure that people knowingly using services provided from victims of trafficking can face sanctions.


I am glad we agreed today to criminalise the intentional use of services provided by a victim of trafficking across the EU. It is an important step in the fight against human trafficking.

Gunnar Strömmer, Swedish minister for justice

Forced marriage and illegal adoption

The agreed text makes clear that member states are obliged to criminalise human trafficking for the purpose of forced marriage and illegal adoption. This will better equip member states’ law enforcement and judicial authorities to effectively combat trafficking in human beings for the purpose of these two forms of exploitation.

Using services provided by victims of trafficking

The Council agreed that member states must make it a criminal offence if a person intentionally uses the service provided by a trafficking victim with knowledge that the person is a victim of trafficking. In such cases, member states need to ensure that this offence is punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties.

The investigation and prosecution by national law enforcement and judicial authorities of this offence should not be dependent on reporting or accusation by a victim.

The impact of the criminalisation of the use of services provided by victims of trafficking will be analysed in a report of the European Commission which it will submit five years after the transposition of this law.

Background and next steps

The EU's main legal instrument to fight trafficking in human beings is the directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting the victims of this crime from 2011. It establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions. It also includes common provisions to strengthen prevention and protection of victims.

Sexual exploitation and labour exploitation are the main purposes of trafficking in human beings. However, other purposes of trafficking like begging or organ removal – already explicitly mentioned in the 2011 directive – and forced marriage and illegal adoption – which are not explicitly mentioned – now represent 11% of all cases of human trafficking in the EU.

Based on todays agreement on a common position the Council can launch negotiations with the European Parliament.

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