Madeleine McCann’s parents embarked on a series of meetings with MEPs in Strasbourg today in a renewed effort to secure backing for a Europe-wide child abduction alert system.
Gerry and Kate McCann have until July 24 – the close of the plenary session - to collect the signatures needed to ensure that their proposal, in the form of a written declaration, is sent to the EU President and published.
They have chalked up 225 signatures so far, leaving them another 168 to collect.
Among those the couple were due to lobby were members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
The Euro-sceptic party refuses to sign declarations on a point of principle, but Mr and Mrs McCann hope it will make an exception in their case.
Speaking after their arrival at the parliament building, Mr McCann said: “This is an important issue and Europe needs to work together. We want to get as many signatures as possible but there’s limited time left.”
The couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, launched the drive for a United States-style Amber Alert in April but now fear time is running out in their bid to achieve formal recognition of the scheme.
Such a declaration carries no legal weight in the European Union but the McCanns believe it would help them win the moral argument over whether such a cross-border system is needed.
Madeleine went missing from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3 last year.
The McCanns believe a European version of Amber Alert – which notifies the public via media across the US when police confirm a child has been abducted - would have helped the search for their daughter in the crucial hours after her disappearance.
Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, their spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: “It’s a chance for Gerry and Kate to be updated on the progress of the declaration so far.
“While talking to supportive MEPs, it’s also an opportunity to reinforce the importance of such a system being introduced to those who have not already signed.”
MEPs from Bulgaria, Cyprus, France and Finland were among those members set to meet the couple.