Commissioner favours EU rules on body scanners
11.02.10 @ 09:25
BRUSSELS - The EU commission will produce a report on the impact of body scanners on health, privacy and security in April, transport commissioner Siim Kallas told MEPs on Wednesday.
"The safety and security of passengers is the major priority for me as transport commissioner," Mr Kallas said on his first day in office, during a debate with MEPs on the use of body scanning technology in airports.
The report will form the basis for a decision on introducing EU-wide rules on their use.
Mr Kallas argued that after the attempted terrorist attack on a US flight on Christmas Day, which departed from Amsterdam, the "reality of the threat to civil aviation" was obvious. But questions on how much added value the introduction of stricter and more privacy-intruding measures brings were also justified.
The Netherlands and UK have introduced full body scanners in their airports and other countries are also looking into this possibility.
The European Parliament in 2008 rejected a proposal from the commission which would have set out common rules for an EU-wide roll out of the technology. Back then, they equated the existing technology to a "virtual strip search."
"I intend to present to you in April a report on imaging technology and its use at EU airports. This report will address the questions raised in the EP resolution from 2008. We need to look at these questions seriously," Mr Kallas said.
He added that Europe should "make up its mind" if these concerns are better addressed at national or EU level.
"To my mind, an EU framework would be better. I say this based on our experience of a common approach since 9/11 [the terrorist attacks on US soil in 2001], and with a view to the efficiency of the single market for aviation. An EU framework guarantees uniform standards, in relation both to security and to respect for individual rights," he argued.
The Estonian commissioner underlined, however, that body scanners are no ‘universal panacea' and that fighting terrorism needs several and co-ordinated measures – intelligence, profiling, search methods and international co-operation.
Meanwhile, in the UK, a popular Indian actor has accused London airport authorities of allowing scanned images to be reprinted and circulated. Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan said he autographed his own revealing scan, after a female security staff printed it.
Heathrow officials strongly denied the allegations and said the story was completely made up. Last week, UK transport secretary Lord Adonis said that the images which are captured by body scanners "are immediately deleted after the passenger has gone through."