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Brussels, 5th November 2010


Ten EU airports are among the 20 top cargo hubs in the world. The security rules applied in the EU to cargo and mail thus have a considerable global security and economic impact. Recent events highlight the need for enhanced regulation and cooperation both at EU- and international level. Building on present legislation and security controls, the EU will develop an appropriate and balanced response that protects our citizens, follows an integrated approach including intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation, preserves an efficient air transport system and guarantees the crucial role of air transport in our economies.

The current EU legal framework

Harmonised EU rules for cargo and mail already exist since 2003. The new EU legislative framework on aviation security is based on Regulation (EC) No 300/2008 and its implementing rules, which are fully applicable since April 2010. These rules have considerably strengthened aviation security in all its aspects, including cargo and mail.

The EU security regime relating to air cargo is essentially based on two pillars: the secure supply chain and the security control of consignments.

The secure supply chain

EU Member States may recognise so-called "regulated agents" such as freight forwarders, hauliers, etc. on condition that they meet strict standards of controls including training, background checks on staff and other legal obligations. Companies who produce cargo can be officially validated as "known consigners" if they meet strict conditions, e.g. on the protection of cargo and on training.

Cargo coming from such known consigners can be accepted by regulated agents for transport without additional security controls such as screening, provided the cargo is fully protected until it is loaded onto the aircraft.

All Member States have to fully implement this system by 2013 at the latest.

The security control of consignments

Freight consignments which are not handled by regulated entities through the aforementioned secure supply chain must be physically screened before being loaded onto aircraft. The methods which can be used are: physical checks, x-ray, trace-detection or sniffer dogs.

How is this controlled by authorities?

The European Commission is continuously monitoring the implementation of all aviation security rules at EU airports, including with a dedicated team of cargo inspectors. In addition, Member States are obliged to have their own detailed quality control monitoring system, including regular checks on regulated agents and known consigners. This ensures a robust, double-layered system of compliance controls in the EU. The Commission is helping Member States with the correct implementation, including through technical assistance and training.

What role does EU customs play in ensuring cargo security?

Every product that crosses EU borders must pass through Customs, which processes over 200 million declarations every year. To ensure the safety and security of EU citizens, Customs applies a multilayered risk management approach, including an "Authorised Economic Operator" programme for traders that have invested in their supply chain security. Consignments that are identified as posing a risk are subject to screening, scanning and other types of individual controls. Intense information exchange between customs and other international and Member States' authorities also plays a crucial role in intercepting risky cargo.

The Commission and the Member States are continually reviewing how to improve such information exchange. As of January 2011, further measures will enter into force to strengthen Customs capacity to block risky consignments. For example, it will be compulsory to lodge electronic pre-arrival declarations before goods reach the EU border to enable an automated risk analysis.

Rules for flights coming to the EU

For flights coming to the EU, rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) apply. ICAO regularly monitors the implementation of these rules. A detailed Memorandum of Enhanced Cooperation between the EU and ICAO was initialled just last month.

The Commission also cooperates closely with its international partners on the bilateral level. For example, detailed discussions with the United States will take place in coming weeks under the Aviation Agreement (Joint Committee) and in the context of the EU-US Transport Security Cooperation Working Group

What about transfer cargo?

Transfer or transit cargo is cargo originating outside the European Union but handled at EU airports. Currently, ICAO rules apply to such freight.

Regulation (EC) No 300/2008, in point 6 of its Annex, lays down the principle that "all cargo and mail shall be subjected to security controls prior to being loaded on an aircraft". The Commission is already preparing a comprehensive policy document reviewing EU policy on aviation security in third countries. It is planned for the coming spring.

Already today, several EU Member States have established third-country validation criteria on which both information and visits by inspectors to such countries take place. On the basis of these checks, these Member States can establish an exemption list for carriers addressing the risk of transfer cargo.

In the light of recent events, aviation security experts met in Brussels on 5 November under the chairmanship of the Commission to review whether further action was necessary. Their conclusions are attached.

Additional information can be found on the following websites:

Directorate-General MOVE's page on aviation security:

The regulatory framework:

Implementing regulation 185/2010:

The European Commission's monitoring report on aviation security:

EU Aviation Security Experts meeting – Brussels, 5 November 2010


On Friday, 5th November 2010, following a joint initiative by the Belgian EU Presidency and the European Commission, the EU Aviation Security Committee met in Brussels in an extraordinary meeting with industry to analyse and to discuss the response to the recent incidents involving explosive and incendiary devices hidden in cargo and mail parcels transported by air within and through the EU.

The meeting was opened by the Belgian State Secretary for Mobility Etienne Schouppe and Vice President of the European Commission Siim Kallas.

The Committee agreed that only an integrated approach within the EU, as well as in a wider global framework can effectively protect air transport from unlawful interference, and at the same time protect our citizens. This approach should involve the effective interaction of intelligence, aviation security policy, strict implementation of rules, research and development and technical assistance to third countries.

The highest level of aviation security will only be achieved in the EU through enhanced cooperation and information sharing between competent EU and national authorities such as police, judicial, customs, and aviation security authorities, and with industry. Furthermore, international cooperation on all these aspects is essential.

The new EU legislative framework on aviation security based on Regulation 300/2008 and its implementing rules which are applicable since April 2010, have considerably strengthened aviation security in all aspects, including cargo and mail. These rules are essentially based on two pillars: the secure supply chain and the security control of consignments.

The Committee discussed how to reinforce the security in particular in relation to transfer cargo and mail entering the EU from third countries.

The following principles were agreed:

  • Security controls of cargo and mail should be risk-based and take into account the quality of screening at the previous point of call, routing, nature of the consignment and the originator, the type of flight on which the cargo is carried (passenger or all-cargo) and the transfer hub concerned. The EU and its Member States will decide the modalities regarding transfer cargo and mail from third countries in order to strengthen the rules to achieve more effective control and screening methods.

  • Cargo and mail entering the EU must meet all relevant security standards. The EU and its Member States will cooperate internationally, in the framework of ICAO as well as bilaterally with international partners, in particular with the US in line with the EU-US air services agreement and the Toledo Declaration, on how to monitor and strengthen cargo security in third countries, including:

    • Capacity building: audit programmes, enhanced training, national quality control mechanisms and technical assistance, with third countries through partnership agreements.

    • Global standards should be developed through ICAO.

  • The EU and its Member States will intensify their activities in order to achieve full and correct implementation of the new cargo rules under Regulation 300/2008, in particular the deployment of the known consigner accreditation, and to strengthen the inspection of security controls.

  • Deployment of more effective and innovative screening methods and technology must be accelerated. The EU and its Member States, working with industry, will promote further research on the effectiveness of cargo and mail screening to identify the most appropriate methods.

The Committee acknowledges the emergency measures taken by Member States to confront the threat in relation to cargo within their jurisdictions, following the security incidents. The Commission and the Belgian Presidency underline the need to ensure a uniform and more effective protection of our citizens and transport system and therefore recommend that such interim measures are duly coordinated at EU level, together with appropriate capacity building actions in partnership with the third countries concerned. The Commission intends to submit without delay proposals in this respect. The EU Cargo Working group will discuss the cargo issues during its meeting of November 11th, 2010.

The Commission shall report to the EU Council of Transport Ministers meeting on December 2nd under the Belgian Presidency on the follow-up to these measures, with a view to deciding further action.

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