More and more women are being forced into prostitution in western Europe and tougher legislation is needed to fight this "modern slave trade," European Justice Commissioner Anita Gradin said on Thursday.

Gradin told a conference in Vienna that laws to combat the sex trade in some European Union countries are too weak."Trafficking in human beings has to be criminalized. It is not acceptable that there are less risks when you traffic in human beings than when you traffic drugs."

Thousands of people from economically troubled former communist countries in eastern Europe have been forced into prostitution after being lured to the west by fraudulent promises of work as waitresses, maids or dancers.