05/27/2011 12:58 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2011

EU Commissioner Reding: All EU Crime Victims Will Get Help -- In Their Own Language

Soon, no more cursing the EU? EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding wants to turn the behemoth into a champion of regular people by helping all EU victims of crime. Now, if EU citizens are mugged in another EU country, they'll get legal and psychological assistance in their own language. Reding, recently voted the European Commission's most competent member, explains her plan to Metro.

Q: If I'm mugged in Greece, who do I call?

A: First thing, you call the police. Our new rules will make sure that those public officials who first come into contact with a victim when a crime is reported -- police officers, prosecutors or judges -- are trained so they treat victims properly, give you the right information and advice and are able to direct you to the appropriate victims' rights organization. For example, if you are French and were robbed in Britain the police will put you in touch with a British organization. And if you're too traumatized to follow up right away, you'll be able to contact your national organization when you return to your home country. Today, who takes care of you? What if there's a trial, and what if you have to travel to the trial? What if you suffer psychological trauma? We want to treat victims with dignity and ensure that they get the recognition they deserve.

Q: Madeleine McCann, a British girl, was abducted in Portugal four years ago, and her parents faced huge difficulties with the Portuguese police. How would your initiative have helped them?

A: It doesn't just consider the direct victims, such as Madeleine McCann, but also indirect victims, like victims' parents, husbands and wives. With the new measures citizens will now have the right to receive information from the competent authorities on their rights and their case in a way they understand and enabling them to play an active role in the criminal proceedings.

Q: 75 million people in the EU are victims of serious crime each year, and assisting them will cost a lot of money. What's the cost-benefit analysis?

A: Crime victims in the EU cost up to €233 billion each year in lost working days and so on. We don't want to emphasize costs, though in the end our crime victim assistance will be very cost-effective. We want to build a Europe where citizens feel that their concerns are being addressed. Not assisting crime victims properly costs much more to our societies.

Q: If there's a massive terrorist attack, will the EU be able to help all the victims?

A: The European Commission itself isn't in charge. National victims' organizations will do this, assisted by police and judges. My proposal is an EU directive, so once it's passed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers it becomes law in all countries of the European Union.

Q: The European Union is often seen as a bureaucratic giant, disconnected from average citizens, and now you're proposing an initiative for crime victims. Is the EU becoming more consumer-oriented?

A: The Lisbon Treaty is about the citizens. Putting crime victims in the center is part of that. For too long our criminal systems have focused on the offenders, but the victims were nowhere to be found. Now, victims are no longer forgotten.

Previously published by Metro