116 016 - by dialling this number, women affected by violence should be able to access assistance in many European countries. This proposal was endorsed by the majority of Equality Ministers of all EU countries and EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland) at their informal meeting on Friday.

Federal Minister for Women Franziska Giffey, who had led the videoconference, afterwards spoke of a strong signal for affected women and girls across Europe:

Violence against women concerns us all and is not a private matter anywhere. It affects all age groups and pervades all social levels and is a big issue in all European countries. This is why we have to address it with a European response. A single, common helpline number would be another step along the way. Amid the coronavirus crisis, low-threshold and effective violence protection measures are more important than ever. Germany’s helpline is a best practice example and I hope that our decision today will prompt more EU countries to expand their telephone assistance services.

In 2013, Germany set up its nationwide “violence against women” support hotline on the number 08000 116 016. It offers counselling around the clock and in 18 languages, anonymously and free of charge. Many EU countries have similar services in place. The decision aims to set up a single European phone number, 116 0116, on which each national helpline can be reached. Today, 22 EU countries plus Switzerland, Iceland and the European Commission approved this decision.

The second priority item on the agenda of the Informal Meeting was the sharing of best practices on the protection from violence. During the videoconference, the ministers of individual member states themselves presented outstanding examples. The services range all the way from expanding women’s shelters via broad-based information campaigns and improvements in police work to measures specifically taken to mitigate the relevant impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Takeaway from the exchange: “Together we are stronger than violence!” This is also the name of a nationwide initiative Federal Minister for Women Giffey launched in November 2019. So far, 13 partners engaged in providing assistance and support have joined it. The initiative aims to encourage women and men who are affected by violence to reach out for support and to make assistance services more widely known.

From the perspective of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the Informal Meeting of EU Equality Ministers is one of the highlights of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the participants were unable to meet in person so that a videoconference had to be held instead. Originally, the summit had been scheduled to take place at Brandenburg’s state parliament in Potsdam.