UK Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott was speaking to EurActiv's Claire Davenport.
Why did the McCanns approach you?
The McCanns' were amazed to discover that the Portugese national authorities had no resources like an alert system to deal with Maddy's disappearance.
Over the years I have dealt a lot with child abduction cases. It has been a long-standing interest and the legal systems in EU member states are not adequate to deal with children disappearing across borders.
The Hague Convention, which outlines procedures for cross-border disappearances, is not as tough as an EU mechanism could be.
Are there currently any cross-border initiatives to send out missing children alerts in the EU?
The Belgian, French, Dutch and British authorities do collaborate on missing children, paid for by the European Commission. These countries also have reasonable easy access to each other.
But it has been difficult to convince some national authorities. Some like Germany have been reluctant to change their existing methods. Rachida Dati, who was France's minister for justice at the time, has been trying to get all ministers aboard.
And the EU's Stockholm Programme [a plan that provides for greater co-operation between police and rescue services] gave it all additional weight.
What will this system do?
As practice tells us when a child is abducted it may be taken to another jurisdiction. The new system should help clarify for all countries involved which authorities are responsible and when an alert should be raised.
Since the US established its Amber Alert system, it has found 502 missing children whereas the French Alerte Enlevement has found only a handful of children, about six, I think.
That's a very big difference. Why is that?
That could be for two reasons. Either child abduction is less common there or their parameters [for raising the alarm] are set a little higher. The local police and the interior ministry have to agree that there is a reason to raise the alarm before they do so.
Would you want a carbon copy of the US or French system in that case?
We should be looking to copy the Amber alert model as it is an extremely effective national model.
What kind of media involvement will the system require?
Well like in France and in the US it will need broadcasters - radio and television, webcasters, telecoms companies - and it would also be desirable if we could get web-based resources like Google to participate.
So how would it work?
It works like a weather warning. For example the UK's Meteorological Office gives the latest weather forecasts to broadcasters who then tell the general public in their news reports. The missing children alerts would work exactly like this.
Do you think the EU will manage to get all media on board for the cross-border alerts?
I think this is a sense of responsibility which I'm sure all share. If media is happy to broadcast severe weather warnings then I'm sure they will be prepared to carry messages of missing children. In any case we expect them to play ball.
I think you will find that there is widespread support for this to become operational. In the UK there is no current governmental arrangement and the Children's Society estimates that there are 100,000 children that go missing every year.
A lot of charities already have missing children hotlines. Won't this overlap with their work?
Though this may take the mantle away from charities who have missing children hotlines and whom we commend for their excellent work, as a parent, I don't want to speak to a volunteer but to a specialised unit.
If you have a governmentally-run mechanism, like in the UK, then you can invoke the government entities to co-operate whereas charities have to rely on the goodwill of others to do something.
A charity worker simply does not have the same experience as law enforcement agencies.
So what's next on the EU's agenda in setting up this system?
We are waiting for a white paper from the European Commission which will update a green paper on the Rights of the Child, which will include something more substantial on this initiative.
It will be prepared by EU Justice Minister Viviane Reding who has experience in combining justice with media. She produced the EU's 116 hotline [an EU hotline for missing children].
We have all the basics in place now. The 116 hotline, the Stockholm Programme, €1million in EU funding, the political will and growing public interest since cases like Madeline McCann's disappearance [showed the holes in the system].