Monday, November 30, 2009

Report of General Consultation, Part Two

Below is the second half of the minutes from the November 9, 2009 meeting of the Parliamentary committee meeting held to debate the information contained in the report submitted by Ina Hut, the previous director of "World Children", the largest adoption agency in the Netherlands.

In the second half of the meeting, the focus shifts to the actions of the Justice Minister, Hirsch Ballin, regarding allegations of corruption in China's adoption program, and his alleged putting of pressure on Ina Hut, director of "World Children" to stop any private investigations in China.

Taken in total, it should become clear to even the casual reader that investigations into allegations of corruption in China are difficult, if not impossible, to conduct as a government, and as a private agency. The protocol, as outlined by the Ministry of Justice is clear: Since China has signed the Hague Agreement, it is assumed that they will abide by its precepts. Thus, any issues of corruption must be presented to the Chinese Government to rectify. The treaty is founded on a basis of faith and trust. Thus, it is improper for an outside government to conduct its own investigation, and certainly improper for private entities such as adoption agencies to do investigations.

This creates, of course, a circular and predictable response cycle: Allegations of corruption are publicized, questions are presented to the CCAA for clarification, assurances are given, and the cycle ends until the next allegation arises. If all parties acted in good faith, this might work well. However, as the participants in the Parliamentary meeting realize, what happens if the CCAA is not acting in good faith? What options are open if a treaty country willfully violates the foundational principles of the Hague Treaty? What options are open then?


Mr. Anker (Christian Union): You can draw your conclusion after the debate, but the questions I’m going to put forth - I just prepare you for it, because I have quite a few questions - are about the relationship between the Justice Ministry and China, the possibilities for research and the possibilities to add research criteria in a country of origin. I am currently still very much in the process, not jumping to conclusions.

Mr. Teeven (VVD): Mr. Anker already said it himself -- If you have signed that treaty, like China and the Netherlands have done, you have to deal with the principle of trust. And then he knows as well as I that the possibilities to investigate things for yourself in those countries are extremely small, if not nil?

Mr. Anker (Christian Union): Simultaneously we have written down in a "Quality Framework" what we require of our licensees, namely, that they regularly investigate the quality of the procedures. This includes also a study in the country of origin. It isn’t for nothing that we put that in the "Quality Framework"; there will be possibilities for it. Mr. President, I have some questions, which I had already announced. What are the limits to the Justice Minister of the principle of trust? This is a very fundamental question. Mr. Teeven has also said a little about it. In the letter from the Minister of September 10, 2008, he wrote that the Chinese authorities had made good progress, but the investigation did not allow us to give a judgment on the way the policy is executed at the provincial level. Because it is in the provinces it should be done. What are the possibilities of the Minister to watch at that level the carefulness of the process? Or does he simply continue to trust the words of the Chinese authorities?

While verifying abuses, the interests of the child must be paramount and have priority over any other interests whatsoever, including possible commercial interests. Sensitivity should also never explicitly preclude the naming of wrongdoing. Does the Minister share this basic assumption? I explicitly that because there appears to exist some misunderstanding about it. The Minister states that "World Children", after the doubts as expressed by Mrs. Hut, could have decided itself to no longer mediate adoptions from China. That is true, but that can not discharge him from his own responsibility to verify signals, doe it? Undercover investigation is not an option, whether or not it was proposed. My party understands that. But licensees can not be denied the right to do their own research. The minister also confirms this in his answers to the questions. But what then does doing an "own investigation" actually still involve? Aren't you then always being spoon fed by being pulled around by the strings of the Chinese government?

We have seen some bad examples of journalists who investigated the feelings of the rank-and-file people during the Olympic Games in China. When someone from the government was walking around, suddenly quite different answers emerged. Does the minister employ certain quality criteria for a good and adequate investigation? What possibilities do the licensees themselves have to investigate? Would it be a good idea if we build a "Framework of Quality" criteria with which we also can make agreements with China? My last question has already been asked by Mrs Azough. That was about the news that all countries were told: No child from Hunan has gone to your country.

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): We just have established a "Quality Framework". Do you think this is not enough?

Mr. Anker (Christian Union): It is now specifically about the question what a licensee can do in China. There is much lack of clarity about this. I have just indicated it in my story about the Olympics, that you get different answers with a police officer present. I can see that you try to agree with China about the question "What possibilities our licensees have to do quality research there?" At any case, for Mrs. Hut it was not sufficient what the ministry had done, or what she could do herself. She would have liked to go one step further. So today it is in the first place about the question: What can we do to ensure the quality?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Mr. President. It was not so long ago, namely June 11, that we talked about international adoption. The accents differ in each debate, as regards country or angle. The approach of the Parliamentary Committee always are: not too strict, but also not too loose. I do have some images concerning that middle road.

Let us keep in mind that adoption, including inter-country adoption, is designed in the interests of the child. That was underscored once more by Mr. Van der Staaij and Mrs De Pater, and I thinks that’s true for all of us here. With all due appreciation, gratitude and respect for parents who are willing to take care of adopted children -- this is the beginning and the end of everything we say, think and organize around adoption.

The debate of June 11 has resulted in a number of motions. In the meantime, I've forwarded my answers in writing to the Chamber. After I would have answered other questions, I shall, with the consent of the party spokesmen, still respond to written questions from the commission on Ethiopia. It was already mentioned this evening that it would be good to say what is necessary about it.

I come now upon the two letters concerning the decision by Mrs Hut to quit as director of "World Children", as well as to the responses attached to them. Much is said about it. Of course it’s also based on what Mrs Hut herself has publicly stated about the reasons for her decision, along with others why she could not go along with the way which was reacted regarding an offer concerning an investigation into the abuses that allegedly occur in China. In July this year, the report about it came out in the media. In it a connection was constructed between the removal of children from parents who did not comply with the one-child policy, and the unlawfully ending up of those children in the adoption circuit. Then we immediately had questions submitted to the CCAA to see whether that message could be confirmed. The CCAA has let us know that the case has been taken under investigation. As I wrote on August 5, in answers to questions, the Inspectorate Youthcare was asked by me to investigate with the relevant licensees concerning the placement of children from the orphanage that was mentioned in the reports. I hope to have the results of investigations of the Inspection Youth Care available within a few weeks. We also intend to energetically monitor this issue, also based on those investigations. However, it is also the intention that a delegation from my office will go to China to speak about it.

I come to the specific questions. I start with questions about how the points of departure concerning the subsidiarity-principle can get hands and feet. Mr. Van der Staaij did not bring it up only concerning China. The licensees are responsible to find out in which way the subsidiarity-principle in the proceedings vis-a-vis foreign countries is given a meaning. Mrs Azough asked whether all countries had received a notice from China, that there are problems relating to children adopted into those countries. In any case we know from Sweden that there confirmation was received that children were involved. It was asked whether Mrs. Hut was put under pressure. I want to preface my answer by saying that none of those sitting at this table, were present at that conversation. That seems to me reasonable at such a conversation. And then I assume that it refers to one and the same talk. But, as I've answered the questions of the Chamber, it is perceived that several talks have taken place. They are talking about one conversation.. It seems that it in a certain way came across from Mrs. Hut there have been various discussions. I'm discussed this in pretty much detail. With that "World Children" brought the possibility up for something like an undercover investigation into possible abuses in case of adoption. Then on the part of my ministry it was said: "That’s not the way we should and can go." I have given the reasons for that. We have a treaty relationship with certain countries. I would not leave any doubt that I consider that treaty relationship valuable. In previous consultations we have talked about complications that could result in your ending up without a treaty relationship. We are nevertheless exploring some opportunities beyond the existence of a treaty relationship, but we have always devoted ourselves to the treaty relationship and the obligations resulting from it for the states who are parties to the Convention. Then you must also call that counter-state to account for it. That’ s the crucial point concerning the need for an investigation.

Mr. Teeven (VVD): When Mrs. Hut said she was going to do an investigation and the Ministry said that this would be an undercover operation, was it then said by the Ministry the straight answer: "If you really are going to do it, you will immediately lose your license"?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: I will once more state this explicitly: We have no eye- or ear witnesses of that discussion here at the table. So I can neither say with certainty from my own knowledge about the dynamics of that conversation. But it was reported to me that the respondse to this idea was businesslike, and that what was said is that this does not fit in the relationships we maintain.

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): I assume that we deal in a kind of trust with licensees, like treaty countries do with each other. The Minister said that a delegation from the Ministry of Justice is going to China. The Minister has done this before. So he is giving us to understand that signals that then things, which emerged from the investigation and which according to the meaning of the Chinese authorities would be addressed, did not happen? Is that correct?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Some elements do measure up. The Chinese authorities have committed themselves to investigate. When that will be done, I do not know. I expect within a couple of weeks the result of the investigation of our own Inspection Youth Care. With this it is important that we are not dealing with a Chinese agency, but with a State: the People's Republic of China. This has also been instrumental for the way we approached the idea of an investigation by our own resources. The People's Republic of China is our treaty party. It would be quite wrong to ignore that. Because we then would suggest that we, on our own initiative, go deeply into what the responsibility is of which we call the states account. Mrs. Timmer asked what then still is the significance of our planned visit. The exact contents of the conversation will partly depend on what emerges by it. That is, of course, also partly established by our concerns, the signals, the media messages, and what was said by "World Children". The delegation will be led on high-level by the Director of Judicial Youth Policy.

Ms Langkamp (SP): The Minister is still expressing his full confidence in the CCAA, but that institution has explicitly urged the Netherlands to not do any further investigation. I have namely, a letter proving this. Why does the Minister still have the fullest confidence in a investigation by the CCAA? It turned out earlier that they had got it at the wrong end of the stick, saying that there was nothing the matter. Afterwards, it turned out there was really something the matter. Why does the minister still trust the CCAA?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: You say something different than what I just said. I have said that the principle of trust between states is what counts. It’s something different when you vis-a-vis the [Dutch] government say whether or not you have the fullest confidence in the government. In the interstate relations we call each other to account on what they owe each other. That’s what we mean by the interstate trust principle. Then a situation could emerge where you must say: "Hello, there is a state that does not respect its treaty obligations." Let me give another example. One voter of your party says to have full confidence in the adoption policy spokeswoman....

Ms Langkamp (SP): This is a funny word game, but for me it’s about the following: You just said that a ministerial delegation travels to China, but will further wait for the results of the investigation by the CCAA. That delegation is going to talk over there, but not perform a supplementary investigation or something like that. This you leave to the CCAA. So I repeat my question: Why have you the fullest confidence that the results came purely and carefully into being, so that you no longer will have reason to suppose that further research is needed?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Now you are going too fast. I draw that conclusion at this moment not at all. Otherwise we would have no need to do an investigation or to ask for an investigation. The findings of these investigations and the questions that may arise from what gets through or have gotten through to us, will determine the phrasing of the questions of the delegation led by the Director, Judicial Youth Policy to China. Only then can further conclusions be drawn.

Ms Azough (GreenLeft): Can you specify what the investigation of the official delegation, as well as of the Inspection Youth Care, means? We know how the inspection here in the Netherlands is doing research. How exactly will be the investigation be done over there? I have another question, in line with that of Mrs Langkamp: I think we all have that letter from the China Center of Adoption Affairs, which was also mentioned in the “Netwerk” show. One sentence is crucial there. I was terrified by that sentence. The sentence reads: "It is better not to pursue, expand or elaborate further on this issue and to keep it secret for the related families, in order not to interrupt the association established." That language causes at least my party some concerns. I very much like to have a response from the Minister to this.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: I remember that sentence too, so I understand your question well. Let us first wait for the reports of the Inspection Youth Care. I will take care of it that you get sufficient description of the procedure that was used. That will be the case in a few weeks. I'm not trying at all to jump to conclusions. I'm just trying to do the investigation orderly.

Ms Azough (GreenLeft): What is your response to the specific sentence I just put forward?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: From this investigation we will have to learn it. I’m not jumping to conclusions. That’s also the reason I distanced myself, by interruption, to previous questions from those who thought that I would have drawn the conclusion that there is nothing wrong. Of course this is not the case, otherwise we would not investigate. That includes this sentence too.

Ms Azough (GreenLeft): I’m not that much after a conclusion of the Minister. I just ask a reaction to the fact that such phrases in a letter of the CCAA do exist.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: As you've seen, this statement is open to a certain ambiguity. That statement could mean that something has gone wrong and that it was better not to dig too much deeper and do no investigations. It could also mean that there is no absolute certainty, and therefore there is no reason to go further. That sentence also has struck me. That obvious question will be addressed either in the investigations, or in the discussions which will be conducted by the delegation under my supervision.

Ms Azough (Green/Left): Can then a specific explanation and interpretation of this phrase be indicated in the results you send to the Chamber?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Of course, this should be addressed. Whether that can be done based on the report of the Inspection Youth Care I don’t know. For that, I would have to know the report. If I would know the report, it would be ready and the Chamber would have it. So I can only address it at the time the report is there. Otherwise, this question will be addressed on the occasion of the visit that the director Judicial Youth Policy will pay to China, at which the necessary questions will be put. Of these, the Chamber can be sure.

Mr. Van der Staaij (SGP): The minister will take care of a certain investigation himself. I applaud that. At the same time, he reports in his response that the agencies have a duty to investigate as well. However, we notice that in China the contacts were run via the CCAA, which does not recognize the agencies as official persons to speak to. Does this altogether not lead to a complicated split we are today confronted with? On the one hand the Minister says to the licensees: "We can call you to account on the quality of the adoptions and if something goes wrong, you are responsible to me." On the other hand, they are very limited in their investigating possibilities, or even be on guard to not influence the relations between the countries negatively. Doesn’t bring the agencies into a very difficult position?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: I will not deny that it is a difficult way of working. As a matter of fact, the questions you pose are actually answered in the treaty and the approval of it. The treaty assumes the responsibility of States with agencies we call Central Authorities - a term attributed to a state agency by virtue of the treaty and the approval legislation - which are required to ensure an orderly adoption procedure, consistent with criteria of the treaty. However, neither in the treaty nor in the implementation of it, was total state process chosen. That could have happened. That question was also addressed as a result of the report of the committee-Kalsbeek. It is known that in the first report of the committee Kalsbeek the quality criteria, on which adoptions have to comply to, were addressed as well. We also discussed then the requirements to which the agencies must comply, and connected conclusions to it. Concerning the equipment for the professional conduct of their tasks, the agencies are very different. We have concluded that a professionalization of the way agencies are working is desirable. Simultaneously, on June 11, we found that it is not desirable that there is a kind of monopoly situation of agencies who apply their own methods. That was a reason for me, conforming to the feelings of the majority of the Chamber, to stimulate that a second license holder in the United States could be active. The question can arise, of course, whether it wouldn’t be better to put this completely into state hands and I do think this question is legitimate. Only now I don’t answer this in the affirmative. You could bring it totally into the hands of the state.. That is a possible approach in this field. Then you don’t have agencies anymore, no private initiative and no special relationship with the idealistic motives of the adoptive parents. I don’t answer this question with "yes", but it is a question that can be set. But you really cannot have both. Now we now have agencies with their own responsibility. With this, the government has a supervisory role which it fulfils in response to turned-out problems, for instance by advocating greater professionalization. That also requires a certain scale of the work. Then, it's not from A to Z and with every scrap a state responsibility.

Mr. Van der Staaij (SGP): I do not know whether we should address this that wide because then it leads to a much farther reaching discussion. Let’s do it slightly smaller. If I'm well informed, adoptions in China go via the CCAA. Then you miss what you do have in other countries: The direct contact of concrete agencies with concrete orphanages. In this case, it’s my assumption that you have a kind of state-state relationship in which you speak with each other about abuses. You may expect of an agency that he takes his responsibility directly, that private homes are responsible, and takes a good look at what is happening there. However, does this model work in China?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: China has no system of society characterized by considerable space for private initiative. This also applies to this subject. This means that agencies meet there different counterparts than in a country which does have that space.

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): Will there, before the delegation leaves, be made an inventory whether the other agencies, Meiling and "Foundation Child and Future", are confronted in the same way as "World Children"? You say yourself that there are a sort of state-to-state consultations taking place. We have already sent earlier a delegation to China. So I would suggest to you to consider to send from here as high as possible delegation. Then I’m not thinking of a director, but a vice-minister or a Director General. I know that’s my resort, but you yourself make it very heavy by saying that it is about state-to-state. Then, you also yourself have to set in very high.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: It is a strong delegation, especially if you know how experienced the director is who will lead this delegation. Knowing about the specific work area is certainly important. By this I don’t want to say anything to the detriment of alternatives. Before that, you asked whether during the preparation information was derived from other licensees. The answer to that question is "yes".

Ms Azough (GreenLeft): I have a question in addition to the one of Mr Van der Staaij. Do you say in a certain way that we can not prevent agencies, dealing with China, from being legally liable for possible abuses, and that agencies can do nothing more than to warn adoptive parents of possible abuses? Do I understand well that they can not do anything beyond that?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: At the very moment, a structural problem is arising, it also can be concluded that you can not go on in this way. This is the worst case scenario. But I have informed you already previously on the previous findings and the methods. In a few weeks we’ll know more. It’s no problem now speculating together, but that is neither in the interest of the parents nor of the children.

President, I come to the question from Ms Azough on signals that there is more information from China than was published. What’s coming up on questions in response to what we know, is involved in the phrasing with which the investigation is conducted by the Inspection, respectively the delegation traveling to China. In the written answers I have already answered the question about commercial interests and other interests: No, that link is not there. We deal with this as a specific topic. Although I always appreciate that my colleagues sympathize with my work, I did not get any comment on this topic from colleagues involved in the commercial interests in China.

Mr. Teeven (VVD): That is kind of strange. According to Mrs. Hut she spoke with Mr. Levenkamp and Mrs. Van ‘t Woud. These are probably colleagues of the civil servants now sitting next to the Minister.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Those are other than those who sit next to me.

Mr. Teeven (VVD): Now I have told the whole story. They would have said that the license will be revoked from "World Children" if it did its own investigation. It was said that the reason for the measure was, that "other interests" played a role, and that the China-Netherlands relations could be damaged. Now, you are answering the question about commercial interests in the negative, but this was literally said so by the ministry, according to the manager of an agency.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: First, I do not know whether this is a literal quote. Moreover, as far as this text is cited, we are not talking here, if it is about relations with China, about commercial interests, but rather about the relationship from state to state. That's what it is about. I would also expect the other side as is the case. The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on private international law has no enforcement role. Mrs Timmer and Mr Van der Staaij asked for enhanced cooperation in European policy towards China. My commitment is to come in the European context to the exchange of information. That’s what we started in the European context, as I have said previously. For the time being, concerns about China are only dealt with by the Flemish authorities. I am, however, open to the idea that we also take it on at the European level. It seems to me a valuable idea to agree with China on a quality "criterion" according to the progress of the consultation and in response to the findings of the preceding investigation. Mrs. Langkamp and Mrs De Pater asked about non-treaty countries. On July 1, we achieved the “Quality Framework licensees inter-country adoptions”. It states that an agency has the obligation to check as good as possible the reliability of the contacts abroad, both by entering into a relationship, as by continuation of it. As that is known and in agreement with the feelings of the parliamentary committee, we have not slammed the door on adoptions from non-treaty countries. I remind you of the appreciation that we already had was before the United States was a treaty country. There are other countries with which that may occur and occurs, albeit sometimes at a modest scale. Mrs. De Pater asked for a better guarantee for children who want to know who their parents are. She also talked about the right to care. I strongly agree with what she has said on this. These are important principles, also for the further development of the subject. The brokerage records must provide as much information as possible about the origin. The agency must take care of that. That responsibility is theirs. And it is one of the quality demands we require. Mr. Teeven asked about the financial monitoring and Future Child Foundation. Annually the audited accounts of the agencies, including on the basis of the certificates, so those of Child and Future Foundation. To date I have no signs that something was wrong with the accounts of Child and Future Foundation. Mr. Teeven has asked about the financial supervision on the Foundation Children and Future. Yearly, the year balances of the license holders are being checked, also based on the accountant’s statements - that’s also true for the Foundation Child and Future. To date, I have no signals that something would be wrong with the year balance of the Foundation Child and Future.

Mr Teeven has asked about a greater role of government. I already answered that question when I talked about a possible different model than opted for in the treaty and the implementing legislation. Mr. Van der Staaij asked about the transparency of adoption costs in the United States. We are attentive to transparency, as I have said on the previous occasion. The Central Authority shall keep a record. An unclear definition and insufficient plausibility also give rise to action by the Central Authority. Child Foundation and Future - Mrs Timmer has asked for it - has been trying for three years to a come to a contract with two U.S. adoption organizations. This did not lead to a positive result. This opens the possibility for the second license holder NAS to come to a cooperation agreement with those two license holders.

Mr. Van der Staaij has asked whether other countries have ended their adoption relationship with the U.S. For the time being only the Flemish Central Authority Adoption indicated not to want cooperation with so-called private persons who are active in the United States. The Flemish Central Adoption Authority is looking for possibilities for other adoptions from the foster care system. Mrs Langkamp has asked whether we are going to do an investigation regarding adoptions from Haiti. Yes, we know the reports about Haiti. In consultation with the agencies who work in Haiti, we are keeping a finger on the pulse. I already was intending to have the Central Authority bringing a visit to Haiti to talk there with the authorities and other related partners too, and to ask attention for adoptions from Hati. I will inform the Chamber about it if the visit gives a reason for it. Mrs Timmer and Mrs Langkamp asked whether there is some talk about structural abuses in Ethiopia and whether there has been diplomatic consultations. This is related to the question already put by the parliamentary committee. The Foundation World Children has informed me in a letter on September 17 of the fact that the adoptions from Ethiopia has been shut down for the time being and that they take for the time being no new adoption applications under consideration. From its own files investigation, "World Children" has already found out that there were discrepancies and that the background data were not always in agreement with the information in the files.. Then it was decided to further investigate current procedures. I consider "World Children's" decision to temporarily suspend adoptions and to start an investigation courageous. I also appreciate it that they are willing to take such a step when they are of the opinion that there is a reason for it. Of course, this critical attitude is appreciated. I follow the investigation with great attention. Collaborators of my Department have in the mean time conducted a first conversation with the Foundation World Children, Foundation Africa and the other organizations acting as mediators in Ethiopia. It was agreed that an inventory of the ascertained problems will be made. Based on the inventory it will be considered what has yet to be done. These are the provisional answers to the questions you asked me on October 5. They just arrived. When that inventory is complete and we have more results, I’ll gladly inform the Chamber.

Chairman: There is still an opportunity for a second round. Please, keep it short.

Ms Langkamp (SP): Chairman, I will try to be brief. The Minister says: "Let us wait for the investigations in China and then our delegation will go there with the right investigation questions to ask to do the further investigation." Can he explain the difference with the previous investigation of the delegation which has been previously to China, and which came back with the message that nothing was wrong? If it is, namely, again boiling down to number of talks over there, I really have no confidence at all that there will be any other outcome possible, given the attitude of the CCAA to date. What more will the investigation contain than the previous one? I come to the answers concerning other countries. The Minister called the critical attitude of "World Children" courageous vis-a-vis Ethiopia. When there was some talk about a critical attitude vis-a-vis China, the Minister gave a slightly different reaction, so is my impression. After all, he still has not encouraged an investigation that "World Children" itself wants to conduct in China. Why it is up to the agencies to decide to stop adoptions from a country? "World Children" has, for instance, decided to do this with the adoptions in Haiti, while two other agencies continue. In other words: Shouldn’t the Dutch government take more of a leading role in such decisions?

Mrs. De Pater-van der Meer (CDA): Chairman. We’ll get soon more information, including on China, Ethiopia and Haiti. I make the difference that two of these are non-treaty countries, and one is. I have already said in the first round that I gradually am also kind of worried - not "only" but "also certainly" - about non-treaty countries when we want to closely verify in these vulnerable situations that all procedures are properly conducted. I am still going to further orientate myself. I already asked in the first round: Can’t we require further demands on the right of identity for the benefit of the child made eligible for inter-country adoption? If it is already difficult, as in some cases in treaty countries, to verify, it’s even much harder in non-treaty countries. I wonder whether we shouldn’t provide the agencies with more tools so they at an earlier moment might say: In this we can’t fulfill according to our own rules. I just ask it once more, because to me this matter is not yet closed.

Mrs. Azough (Green Left): Chairman. I’m dying to know what the investigations exactly involve. So far, the Minister is somewhat vague about it. He also says he doesn't know exactly what has been investigated. Until then, he will keep his mouth shut. I find that a bit strange, because he can very well indicate in which way the investigation was done. He does not need to give the results right away, but I can’t imagine that the methods have not been discussed. The interpretation of the phrase in the letter of the CCAA seems of great importance to me. I may hope that a very specific answer will be given in the letters that the Minister has yet to send the Chamber. Mr. Anker asked a good question: What are the limits of the principle of trust? The Minister did not address this, although this might be the core of this debate. I would be glad to get an answer on it. Legal liability is now understandably playing tricks on the agencies. I would like to see that the Minister of Justice let the Chamber know in a letter or something like that how that exactly works.

Mr. Van der Staaij (SGP): Chairman. I thank the Minister for his answer. It is good that the investigation is running and that we will get further notice shortly. Then we can go into depth based on the Minister’s report and the consequences he attaches to it. Wouldn’t it be good then to come back on how, at signals of abuses, the division of tasks will be between agencies and the Central Authority, particularly in relation to China? I think that is up to now not yet clear enough. So I don’t want to lay it thick, but to focus it on China and the important role the CCAA plays in it. I am curious how the European cooperation will get ground under the feet. The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on private international law has no enforcement competence, says the Minister now quite short. In other words: Not much can be done with it. In the letter of September 10, on China, the Minister wrote, however, that organizations like the Permanent Bureau could play an important role in the handling of possible irregularities. What exactly is the role of the Permanent Bureau? I further have mentioned the prohibition to relinquish and the cash benefits from orphanages. To what extent is there still attention for that and is being tried China to abandon making relinquishments punishable?

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): Chairman. Also thanks on my part to the Minister for answering in the first round. I start with the international supervision and the Permanent Bureau. I understand that the Minister says that the agency is not an enforcing one. I would like it to be different. I myself have suggested to appoint a special envoy to the UN. Apart from Europe this could be an worthwhile option. I understand that this has to be further investigated. Now I’m going to say something very bad. In China they apply double standards. I know that a different ministry released a press report on Chinese who want something concerning trade with the Netherlands. Chinese inspectors are allowed to watch even up to the shop-floor a company that wants to export something to China. If we want something the other way around in China, it is all very sensitive and complicated, and is it about "state-to-state". I want the Minister to send a message about this difference in approach with the delegation which gets the task to have a look over there. I have not gotten an answer on the questions about the broader context of the huge waiting lists we have. It is about 6,000 people and 800 children on average. I don’t want to deter prospective adoptive parents from the idea to adopt, but shouldn’t we provide them with thorough information, and point out to them foster care and other possibilities? Sometimes we have also to protect people who end up on such terrible long waiting lists.

My conclusion about China, Ethiopia and Haiti can only be: This debate will be continued.

Mr. Teeven (VVD): Chairman. I thank the Minister for his answers in the first round. I would like to ask him by all means to keep the finger on the pulse so that the willingness of agencies remains to execute the deelbemiddeling in the United States loyally. Our party is strongly attached to this.

Our party awaits for the results of the investigation in China. We can not require more from the Minister at this point. The adoptions from Ethiopia have been suspended. Therefore I ask the Minister to exercise some energy in this matter. Then the Embassy can play, after all, a much more active role than in China.

Unlike Ms De Pater, I do not think we should cross a line at non-treaty countries concerning more or less checking. Precisely in both China's you see that the non-treaty country, Taiwan, adoptions take place very well, accurately and with full guarantees, and that in the treaty-country China just more is the matter. You can not cross a line between treaty-countries and non-treaty countries. You have to look at it situation by situation.

Mr. Anker (Christian Union): Chairman: Returning to the limits of the principle of trust: I specifically asked to the possible establishment of "Quality Criteria" about the way you are allowed to check whether all is going well in China. The Minister said it very quickly, but I've heard that he thought it to be a good suggestion to make agreements with China concerning checking and investigation on quality criteria. If I have listened well to the Minister, he also said that there is a delegation over there and that a penetrating interview is coming up there. If I understand him correctly, he considers a kind of special treatment for China. So, he does not want to only leave to the agencies, but put the responsibility stronger at the Dutch government. Is the Minister going to discuss this special treatment also with the Chamber? I suspect that he also has to discuss this with the adoption agencies, because it means quite a shift of responsibility. However, this might be necessary in China. I suspect that when they come back from China with that investigation, such conclusions also have to be drawn, although less far-reaching than a moratorium. I absolutely do not want to end up in a "No! Yes!" game between Mrs. Hut and the Minister. Nevertheless, her imputations really were serious. The Minister has to check yet whether it happened or not. It would be good for the relationship if the Minister will distance himself of it, if it happened this way, and says that it was in any case the line of intention. So the air can be cleared about the idea that commercial interests might for instance intervene with the interests of the child.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Chairman: As several members of the parliamentary committee just said, this is an in-between stage. We are strongly aware of this. There have been occasions, about which has been clearly spoken, to watch again the adoptions from China, but now from a more specific angle. It is also an in-between stage in the sense that we are going, in the mean time, pretty well in the direction with the execution of what I on June 11, promised the committee.

Meanwhile, the NAS is working as the second license holder for the United States. With this is an important objective achieved, which was pronounced by members of the committee in the previous session. China. Mrs. Langkamp pronounced the desire, which I share with her, to get the best possible view of the course of affairs and work methods. The present question about China is not the same as before, but is about alleged abuses in Zhenyuan, reported in messages in July. The situation in China is different from that of Haiti and Ethiopia, because those are not treaty countries. By the way, China has a lot of state initiative and few private initiative. You can not say that the state in Haiti and Ethiopia is clearly present in the various sectors of the society. I try to phrase everything as neutral as possible, but the spokesmen present undoubtedly understand what I mean. Because of this, as a matter of course other divisions of responsibility play off.

Mrs. Azough and Mr. Anker asked what during the conversation was and was not on the agenda, and what was "listened-in". I have already clearly stated that trade interests have not in any way been normative. I want to express this explicitly. Who might have gotten that impression, must know that this impression is incorrect. As one should, I assess the relationship between the services here and there working under Justice - or how the ministries in other countries may be called - that strictly is acted according to the requirements and quality criteria which are in agreement with the intentions of the treaty and our principles of a constitutional state and the transparency going along with it. This goes absolutely together with the notion that there shall not arise any doubt about the identity of the child, where Mrs. De Pater expressly asked for.

Mr. Anker (Christian Union): The director of the "World Children" said that she has been put under pressure and could possibly lose the license if she did her own investigation. On that, the Minister has not yet responded.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: I did not respond because I was not present at that conversation. I can very well imagine that was clearly expressed that it does not fit into the type of relationship with China, namely a relationship ruled by the treaty, that an agency is doing private investigations. The question was whether then something is said about the situation that would arise if it yet would happen despite this warning. I have the impression that Mr. Anker asked if a particular kind of improper pressure came into play. In these conversations, improper forms of pressure should never be allowed, but you can say that certain activities do not belong to what a agency ought to do, knowing that it is about a relationship between two states which should address each other as states.

Ms Langkamp (SP): How does this relate to the quality framework, which precisely says that the agencies have to permanently keep the finger on the pulse, and continue to examine whether their contacts are reliable?

Minister Hirsch Ballin: It is related to it very well. What belongs to the conversations, contacts, reviews, testings, judgments of unequivocal establishing of the origin and descent of the child - that’s all just fine. That is allowed. But the application of practices, under a cloak, belongs to things that do not fit into the quality framework. So therefore one relates to the other. Mr. Van der Staaij asked about the role of the Permanent Bureau. This can certainly play a role in the exchange of information and keeping each other informed, but the Permanent Bureau has no investigation service, no inspection. I understand that this has given rise to misunderstandings, but this is the extent to which the Permanent Bureau can be of significance. As the Permanent Bureau can not do it, we have to rely on different ways of working and investigation.

Mrs Timmer has pointed to the waiting list. I take some distance from the word "waiting list" in this context. This is about a list of parents available to give a safe and loving reception for children awaiting adoption. I find that important.

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): I think that important too and you know that.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: Then it can not do harm that we are careful in the way in which we put one and the other into words. That’s exactly why I said in the previous discussions that I welcome the opportunity to involve more countries than so far in creating a situation where the willingness of the prospective adoptive parents and the needs of a child can meet.

Mr. Anker (Christian Union): There must be a letter to the Chamber with the latest news on the investigation of inspection about what has happened in China, with what has been observed and with the way the Minister himself sees how Hague Adoption Treaty should be maintained in China. We have talked a lot about the question whether one and the other shouldn’t lay more on the side of the government, in this case by our own government. I want the minister to go into this.

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): There are some things left open. That is the aftercare. The Minister of Justice says that the Minister for Youth and Family and the Minister of VWS must take this up. I find that very thin, because that’s just what we have been talking about the entire time. There is a large group of people who like to hear more about it. Neither went the Minister into my suggestion about a special envoy to the UN, or something else than a special envoy, but anyway someone who can globally play a role in it.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: I gladly promise that the Chamber will be informed on the investigation of the inspection and which work methods are being used with it. When necessary, I will clarify what the responsibilities are of the agencies are, and what of others. I apologize if I overlooked the questions of Mrs Timmer. We talked indeed earlier about aftercare. She asked whether that was only the responsibility of other ministries. No, I have, of course, the responsibility for the operation of the adoption system and what follows out of it. Mrs Timmer has also implicitly referred to a point of concern about it. I will have it discussed with the colleagues, and their respective employees. The envoy within the UN framework. I recognize the need to make the international enforcement mechanism stronger. That is not easy. I have already promised in a plenary debate that we will try at that point in the context of the Hague Conference on Private International Law to put something in motion. Now, I have not yet received results to report. I will again inquire as to the progress of the talks in the framework of that Conference and the preparation of a meeting of the conference. I will report the Chamber in writing about it when we have data about it

Mrs Timmer (PvdA): I would remind the Minister of his answer on page 4 (2009Z18045) about lengthening waiting lists of potential adoptive parents, so we use in any case the same terminology.

Minister Hirsch Ballin: From now on I will pay better attention to my own use of words.

Chairman: With these words I close the meeting.

Commitments - The Minister sends further information [to the Chamber] about China, and Ethiopia Haiti when investigations and the inventory are completed. - The minister will also go into the role of the inspection, the consequences of these investigations and the role of the adoption agencies. - The Minister has promised one and the other on the preparation of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brian.
It is very long to read it all. Is it possible for you to make a brief summing up of it?

mommy in Norway

Term papers said...

Nice post. I really liked it.. Don't forget to update it regularly. I am looking for new updates dying to read more stuff from you.