Contact with children and the possible restrictions thereto, when these are considered necessary in the best interests of the child, is a major concern for the member States of the Council of Europe.
The inherent problems with respect to the exercise of contact give rise to significant disputes in many countries. Some parents - and sometimes rightly so - are reluctant to grant contact rights while others are deprived of the possibility of obtaining or of maintaining any type of contact at all with their child. Disputes relating to contact are often long and painful for the parties concerned and raise problems as regards making, modifying and enforcing court orders relating to contact. Furthermore, the internationalisation of family relations and the difficulties created by geographical separation, which brings with it the application of different legal systems, different languages as well as cultural differences, illustrate just some of the problems encountered in transfrontier contact.
However, according to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights "'respect' for a family life ( ) implies an obligation for the State to act in a manner calculated to allow these ties to develop normally." (Eur. Court HR, Scozzari and Giunta v. Italy of 13 July 2000, A, par. 221)
The aim of the Convention is to improve certain aspects of the right of national and transfrontier contact and, in particular, to specify and reinforce the basic right of children and their parents to maintain contact on a regular basis. This right may be extended, if necessary, to include contact between a child and other persons than his or her parents, in particular when the child has family ties with such a person.
In this respect, the object of the Convention is to determine the general principles to be applied to contact orders, as well as to fix appropriate safeguards and guarantees to ensure the proper exercise of such contact and the immediate return of children at the end of the period of contact. It establishes co-operation between all the bodies and authorities concerned with contact orders and reinforces the implementation of relevant existing international legal instruments in this field. The Convention also addresses non-member States of the Council of Europe and will therefore also be open to their accession to this Convention.