In response to last month’s foiled terrorist plot to bomb transatlantic flights departing from London, an emergency meeting was held between UK Home Secretary John Reid and EU ministers from Finland (now holding EU presidency), France, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, which hold the presidency in 2007 and 2008.
Mr. Reid presented several urgent measures for implementation throughout the EU. These measures include: countering liquid explosives; increasing and coordinating security at all European airports and other public transportation systems; sharing intelligence; and addressing Muslim extremism.
EU Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Franco Frattini, said that action will be swift and that proposals will be ready for the meeting of all 25 EU ministers in Finland this month.
Following the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 in the U.S., the EU established minimum airport security standards in 2002 that all member states must implement. Member states can adopt tighter measures at their discretion. The 2002 ruling requires systematic security controls for passengers, flight and ground personnel, baggage, freight, mail, and also addresses the quality of monitoring equipment and the security-sensitive areas of airports. A press release circulated by the Association of European Airlines (AEA) called for harmonization of EU security measures to ensure safe air travel, while maintaining efficient and hassle-free airline services.
Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, AEA secretary general, pointed out that the terrorist plot was a threat against states and not against the airlines which shows how critical “government involvement is – not only in imposing measures, but also in helping implement them and finance them.”
The AEA announcement said that airlines have experienced a heavy financial burden since 9/11, and since the EU recently recognised that security could and should be publicly financed, the reimbursement of losses incurred by the industry as a result of the recent events should be addressed at EU level.
Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) had a similar response. Roy Griffins, ACI Europe’s director, was quoted as saying that aviation security amounted to 25% of European airport operating costs. “We all want Europe to be competitive, to ensure this both government and business must assume their respective responsibilities.”