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Vice-President of the Commission, responsible for Transport

Statement on air cargo security

Berlaymont Press Room

Brussels, 5 November 2010

Good afternoon.

Over the past week, authorities in several EU countries intercepted packages with hidden explosives that were placed on aircraft. These are serious incidents. They show that civil aviation continues to be a target of terrorist activity.

These attempts failed; and we should congratulate the intelligence, law enforcement and security personnel who managed to prevent the attacks.

Civil aviation is protected by the strongest security controls of any economic sector. Also at EU level, a robust system of air cargo security is in place since 2003, and reinforced with new rules which entered into force last April. The system is built on the principles of supply chain security and screening of shipments.

Its basic principle is that all cargo from the EU is subject to security controls, either controls on the origin of the shipment, or screening of the cargo shipment itself. The controls are carried out by the aviation industry under the supervision of the Member States and the European Commission.

But we need to adapt to the security risk we face.

Several EU Member States, as well as the US, have taken emergency measures to deal with the immediate situation. This was the right thing to do to address the short-term risk, and it is fully in line with the EU's security rules.

The recent events highlight the need for more coordination at EU level. We need to develop an appropriate response in order to:

  • protect our citizens;

  • preserve an efficient air transport system;

  • and safeguard the crucial role of air transport in the economy.

For this reason, the Commission, in cooperation with the Belgian Presidency, is holding a special meeting today where experts from Member States and the aviation industry are assessing the situation and working out the next steps to enhance the security system for cargo and mail.

We need to do this by building on the sound aviation security regime we already have here in Europe. Two points are especially important:

  • We should remain smart: simply adding more layers of cargo screening would be hard to implement, and cause great operational difficulties. We need an approach based on risk assessment, better integrated with intelligence; and we need to use a range of control methods in combination.

  • We must take measures in close cooperation with our partners, in particular the United States. There is no point in developing different and incompatible approaches on both sides of the Atlantic for addressing the same problem. That would not be good for transatlantic trade. Further cooperation with international partners will also take place in ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization. In this respect, I would like to recall that the Memorandum of Cooperation between the EU and ICAO on a framework for enhanced cooperation was initialled just last month in Montreal.

I will take up the question of aviation security at the College meeting next week. And we will discuss it with Transport Ministers at the Council on December the 2nd. I have asked the experts to work on concrete actions by that time.

Thank you very much.

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