Home International Airport security tops the bill as EU, US ministers meet

Airport security tops the bill as EU, US ministers meet


Toledo (Spain) : The question of how to stop terrorists breaching Europe’s airports topped the bill Thursday as European Union interior ministers met the US’ top security official in the Spanish city of Toledo.

European states have been scrambling to improve their security since Christmas Day, when a passenger on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly tried to detonate a bomb on board. The issue took on even greater urgency Wednesday after a man with a suspect package ran loose in Munich airport.

US Secretary of State for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is expected to push EU ministers to tighten up their security, including a call for more use of controversial whole-body scanners, which look under a passenger’s clothes to produce an image of their body, officials said.

Ministers at the informal talks are also tipped to debate the efficiency of other security procedures, such as the current limits on the amount of liquids passengers can carry on board an aircraft.

And they are expected to widen their debate to discuss how each country can improve its relationship with aggrieved minorities, especially Muslim ones, in a bid to crack down on radicalisation and terrorist recruitment.

The question of body scanners is likely to be the most controversial. In 2008, the EU’s executive, the European Commission, called for EU-wide rules governing their use as part of a general overhaul of the bloc’s security laws.

The European Parliament blocked that proposal, arguing that the scanners violated the passenger’s privacy and human rights. The move left each EU state to decide whether it would use the machines.

But the Detroit attack led to renewed calls for EU-wide rules on the scanners.

On Jan 7, EU civil aviation experts agreed that the bloc should use common rules on airport security, including scanners. Most EU states are linked in the passport-free Schengen zone, which removes most identity and security checks on travellers.

Commission officials said that they were “considering an initiative on imaging technology to reinforce passenger security” which would guarantee passenger privacy.

Any such proposal would have to meet with the political approval of member states.