Thursday

23rd Sep 2021

EU to discuss airport security next week

  • Brussels' Zaventem airport after the 22 March attack. Security assessments had not "provoked any particular headache" (Photo: Reuters)

The introduction of security checks at airport entrances will be discussed next week by a group of EU and national experts in the wake of the suicide bombing that killed 14 people and injured about 100 at Brussels' Zaventem airport on Tuesday (22 March).

A meeting of the so-called AVSEC committee, which handles aviation security, has been called for next Thursday (31 March) to discuss measures to reinforce security at the 800 European airports.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Moscow airports could serve as a model for Europe (Photo: LuisJouJR)

The committe is composed of representatives from the member states air security agencies, the European aviation security agency and the European Commission.

"The commission wants to help determining whether security measures should be stepped up," a commission official said.

If experts say that new measures would not help move closer to a zero-level risk, the EU is unlikely to go ahead for fear of overreacting, the official said.

Speaking to press on Wednesday, the EU commissioner for migration, Dmitris Avramopoulos also said national authroties are wary of “panicking” the general public.

'Moscow-style answer'

The most spectacular measure would be to install security gates at the front entrances to departure and arrivals terminals.

The idea is based on what Russia has put in place at Moscow airports, where people's luggages are checked by detectors and where visitors are frisked by guards.

Security measures at Tel Aviv airport, in Israel, considered one of the safest airports in the world, could also be a model.

While a list of proposals is being drawn up ahead of the meeting, based on what national and EU experts are sending, the commission says there is "no pre-forged opinion".

Measures to be taken generally have to follow three principles: ensuring security, being proportionate to the threat and ensuring free transport.

"A Moscow-style answer is far from obvious," the commission official said. "We have to take care not to create hurdles while not responding to the real threat".

Before deciding to introduce security checks, experts will have to assess whether and how they can apply to all airports, which have different levels of risk, sizes, architecture, number of entrances and types of passengers.

"Probably you have a situation where each airport is unique," making a general security plan difficult to implement, the official noted.

Other factors also have to be taken into account, such as competitiveness between airports - with airports more exposed to threat or less suited for checks being disadvantaged compared to others.

Zaventem airport was under high security after threats on Brussels in November had triggered a level-three security alert. Armed and unifromed soldiers were on patrol inside and outside the terminal.

According to the commission official, Zaventem "was not provoking any particular headache" as regular assessments of European airports security had not identify problems there.

The debate on airport security is quite similar to the debate triggered after a failed attack on a Thalys train last August, when security checks of people at stations prior to boarding international trains were discussed.

So far only the Gare du Nord in Paris has installed security portals on platforms.

While the second attack on Tuesday took place in a metro station, Maelbeek, introducing checks in Europe's metro systems is not under consideration.

The number of users as well as the number of entries to monitor would be too high and too costly.

"Airports are already a secure environment … With the metro, the question of the cost is completely different," the commission official said.

Metro and train security will be nevertheless discussed on 11 April at another meeting, the LandSec committee, which is the land transport equivalent of the AvSec committee.

Belgium in mourning after 'murderous madness'

The country will "not be the same," the king of Belgium said after the attacks, claimed by Islamic State, at Brussels' Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station killed over 30 people.

EU reconsiders anti-terrorism response

An emergency meeting of interior ministers could take place Thursday. But border security, use of databases and EU cooperation were already on the table last autumn.

EU pushes for flight data bill after Brussels attacks

Leaders are asking for more intelligence sharing among EU states. But the message appears lost on some as EU states scramble to find a response to the intelligence gaps in the lead up to the Brussels attacks.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. French ambassador to return to US after Macron-Biden call
  2. Borrell: EU needs armed force independent of US
  3. Polish region does U-turn on gay rights
  4. Johnson makes fun of French anger on submarine deal
  5. Ukraine vows 'tough response' after gun attack on top aide
  6. Poland again delays ruling on primacy of EU law
  7. EU to table emergency proposals on gas-price surge
  8. EU delays first set of anti-greenwashing rules

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. More French names linked to Russia election-monitoring
  2. Negotiations set for new, tougher, EU ethics body
  3. Lead energy MEP silent on gas meetings before vote
  4. WHO makes major cut in 'safe' air-pollution levels
  5. EU negotiators defend high Covid vaccines prices paid to pharma
  6. The EU's 'backyard' is not in the Indo-Pacific
  7. French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote
  8. Europeans think new 'Cold War' is here - but not for them

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us