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European authorities have agreed to harmonise the laws that govern the sale of adult computer games to minors, following a call from EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini for violent video games to be banned.

Speaking after an informal meeting of EU internal ministers in Dresden, Frattini called for EU-wide cooperation in the banning of computer games.

"An important decision was made to launch a public request for knowing about different legislation and criteria that are enforced to try and improve the common level in order to ban and to punish," he told journalists.

Ministers at the meeting where unanimous in their agreement that they should harmonise the means by which the sale of adult computer games to minors is prevented.

There was no agreement on the need for an outright ban of violent video games, but the informal decision should at least encourage European governments to cooperate with the Commission's fact-finding mission.

The Register was told in December that Frattini had conceded his efforts would lead to something akin to the UK model being applied across Europe.

Frattini's spokesman has since denied there is any truth in this report.

In some European countries violent games are, apparently, sold to kids willy-nilly. The UK is as keen as other EU countries to see the laws harmonised so children don't return from school trips with their satchels stuffed full of adult-rated video games.

Frattini's public comments on the matter do indeed to go further than UK law, which merely punishes retailers who sell adult games to kids with fines and prison sentences, by demanding outright bans on violent computer games.

He called for a dialogue with games producers yesterday "in order to explain to them that we won't tolerate that children are under threat of violent computer games".

"It's in their interest to participate and to contribute to the EU dialogue to eradicate violent video games rather than punish," he said, explaining that it was better to prevent their publication in the first place rather than react after they were in the shops.

But he wasn't working on anything more than a belief that violent games were bad for society. He admitted his campaign was merely "personal" as scientific evidence had both found and denied a link between violent video games and bad behaviour. "My personal opinion is, yes there's a certain degree of link between growing violence in the younger generation and growing diffusion of horribly violent video games." ®

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