1. Each year, thousands of children are affected by cross-border family disputes. It is not rare for disputes surrounding parental separation or divorce to result in situations that threaten children’s rights to maintaining personal relations and direct contact with both their parents. State borders can in such cases add an additional and sometimes invincible layer of obstacles hindering the resolution of the dispute. While parents are drawn into lengthy, exhausting and costly battles over custody and contact, which often weigh heavily on the extended families on both sides, children suffer from the harmful effects of the conflict that sometimes accompany them for a large part or all of their childhood.
2. In today’s globalised world, where living and working in foreign countries, be it temporary or long-term, has become a reality in the lives of many families, an increasing number of family disputes has an international element. Tools assisting in the resolution and prevention of cross-border family conflicts have become more important than ever. State cooperation, including cooperation on a governmental, administrative and judicial level, is needed to set up an efficient framework for the resolution of cross-border family conflicts and to protect children from the harmful effects of such conflicts.
3. Acknowledging the importance of further extending and improving cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean area in the field of international family law, the Euromed Justice III Project, Component 2 was established with the aim of developing a Handbook of Good Practices regarding the resolution of cross-border family disputes with a particular focus on the Euro-Mediterranean region.
4. The Euromed Justice III Project, Component 2 provided a unique setting for the identification and elaboration of Good Practices of particular relevance for the region, establishing a Working Group consisting of experts from the following ENPI South Partner Countries:
· the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria,
· the Arab Republic of Egypt,
· the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,
· the Kingdom of Morocco,
· Palestine, and
· the Republic of Tunisia.
5. The Good Practices contained in this Handbook are the result of the extensive work of the participating experts in the course of five Working Group meetings held in:
(1) Barcelona on 22-24 May 2012,
(2) Rome on 18-20 September 2012,
(3) Madrid on 11-13 December 2012,
(4) The Hague on 5-7 March 2013, and
(5) Prague on 23-25 April 2013.
6. In the identification and elaboration of Good Practices for the resolution of cross-border family disputes, the Working Group built on the important work already undertaken by other bodies in this field of law, in particular the work of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and took into consideration relevant international, regional and bilateral legal frameworks. The Working Party furthermore benefited in the identification of Good Practices from the work undertaken in the course of the predecessor projects, the Euromed Justice Project I (2004-2007) and the Euromed Justice Project II (2008-2011), launched by the European Commission with the aim to promote inter-State and regional cooperation and to encourage continuing exchange between judges and other members of the legal profession and officials of different States. Many of the experts participating in the Working Group set up under the Euromed Justice III Project had formerly participated in one or more of the Euromed seminars or study visits in the course of the predecessor projects.
7. Of significant importance for the identification of Good Practices for the Euro-Mediterranean region was the work undertaken in the context of the so-called “Malta Process” initiated by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The “Malta Process” is a dialogue between senior judges and high-ranking government officials from Contracting States to the 1980 and 1996 Conventions and non-Contracting States with Islamic law influenced legal tradition with the aim to improve the protection of cross-frontier rights of contact of parents and their children and to find solutions to problems posed by the cross-border wrongful removal or retention of children where relevant international legal framework is not applicable. The Malta Process is based on the respect for the diversity of legal systems, cultures and traditions and driven by the commitment to the common objective of protecting children from the harmful effects of cross-border family disputes. So far, three major judicial conferences on cross-border family law were held in Malta in 2004, 2006 and 2009 addressing in particular how a better cooperation between the participating States in the resolution of cross-border family disputes could be achieved.
8. Of particular relevance for the Euromed Justice III Handbook Project are the recommendations made by the experts participating in the Malta Conferences, the three so-called “Malta Declarations”. It is important to note that experts from nearly all of the ENPI South Partner Countries were participating in one or more of the Malta Judicial Conferences.
9. Furthermore, a development flowing from the Malta Process of particular significance for the identification of Good Practices in the Euromed Justice III Project, is the work undertaken to set up structures for international family mediation assisting in the resolution of cross-border family disputes. Following a recommendation contained in the Third Malta Declaration, a Working Party consisting of State-designated experts from Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America elaborated “Principles for the Establishment of Mediation Structures in the context of the Malta Process”.The Principles call for the establishment of a “Central Contact Point for international family mediation” in each State facilitating the provision of information on available mediation services, on access to mediation, and other related information, including information regarding access to justice. In addition, the Principles lay down certain standards regarding the identification of international mediation services as well as certain standards regarding the mediation process and implementation of the results of mediation. It is important to note that any State is free to adopt and implement these Principles. So far six States, namely, Australia, France, Germany, Pakistan, the Slovak Republic and the United States of America have established a Central Contact Point for cross-border family mediation in accordance with these Principles.
 Further information available at < http://euromed-justiceii.eu/en/home/list/&tid > (last consulted 15 May 2013).
 See for further information on the “Malta Process” the Hague Conference website at
< http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=publications.details&pid=5214&dtid=46#malta > (last consulted 15 May 2013).
 See below para. 11 regarding the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Hague Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.
 The three Malta Declarations are available at < http://www.hcch.net/upload/maltadecl09_e.pdf > (last consulted 15 May 2013).
 The Principles and the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum are available on the Hague Conference website at < www.hcch.net > under “Child Abduction Section” then “Cross-border family mediation”.
 The Principles for the Establishment of Mediation Structures in the context of the Malta Process have received wide support from States in the course of the Sixth Meeting of the Special Commission on the practical operation of the 1980 and 1996 Conventions. In the Conclusions and Recommendations, the Special Commission welcomed the Principles and encouraged States “to consider the establishment of such a Central Contact Point or the designation of their Central Authority as a Central Contact Point”, see the Conclusions and Recommendations Nos. 60, 61 of the 2011 Special Commission (Part I), available at < http://www.hcch.net/upload/wop/concl28-34sc6_en.pdf > (last consulted 15 May 2013).
 See regarding the Central Contact Points for international family mediation the Hague Conference website at < www.hcch.net >, under “Child Abduction Section”, then “Cross-border family mediation” and then “Central Contact Points for international family mediation”.