Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aviation: EU agrees civil aviation security deal

A final deal on EU civil aviation security was struck by European Parliament and Council representatives on 11 January, after wide-ranging and lengthy conciliation negotiations. The new text for an EU regulation, which goes before the full Parliament in March, aims to ensure a high level of aviation security throughout the EU, by laying down common rules and standards and establishing compliance monitoring mechanisms.

Welcoming the agreement, Transport Committee Chairman and aviation security rapporteur Mr Paolo Costa said "the necessity of new security measures that are implemented quickly and effectively is undoubted. I am glad that we found an agreement which will increase security and balance anti-terrorism measures and passengers' rights".

Mr Costa also noted that the text lays down principles to govern the funding and transparency of security measures. More specific rules for "safeguarding undistorted competition between airports and air carriers" and various methods of ensuring consumer protection with the respect to aviation security cost-sharing, will be outlined in a European Commission report due by the end of this year. The agreement covers all the points that divided that institutions at the second reading.

Security programmes at national, airport and air carrier levels

Common security measures will include screening passengers and cabin baggage, access control, checks for prohibited articles, aircraft checks and searches as well as patrols and other physical controls. The regulation also deals with in-flight-security measures, such as the deployment of "sky marshals" or the carriage of weapons on board aircraft.

Security programmes at national, airport and air carrier levels should ensure that the common rules are applied and maintained. Member States are free to apply more stringent measures, provided these are "relevant, objective, non‑discriminatory and proportional" to the risk addressed.

Sky marshals

This is the first time that in-flight security measures, e.g. for restricting access to the cockpit or dealing with unruly passengers, have been addressed at EU level. Parliament and the Council agreed that those Member States that deploy in-flight security officers ("sky marshals") must ensure that they are specially selected and trained. Strict rules for sky marshals were a crucial point for Parliament at the first and second readings.

Weapons must not be carried on board an aircraft (with the exception of those carried in the hold), unless the requisite security conditions have been fulfilled in accordance with national laws and authorisation has been given by the states involved.


It has been agreed that each Member State should determine the shares of the cost of security measures to be borne respectively by the state, the airport entities, air carriers, other responsible agencies or users. Member States and users may also contribute to cover the costs of more stringent security measures. Additionally, the Commission is to present a report, no later than 31 December 2008, which "will consider what steps need to be taken in order to ensure that security charges are used exclusively to meet security costs, and to improve the transparency of such charges".

Mr Costa stressed that because modern-day transport security activities are a response both to a “private (passenger) fear” and to a “public concern”, it is virtually impossible not to burden the passenger. But, at the same time, "it would have been unfair to keep governments away from any financial responsibility in the matter and to burden all citizens without any distinction between users and not users", he added.

One-stop security checks

Where passengers and/or their baggage arriving in the EU on flights from third countries that have aviation security standards equivalent to the EU's, they will not need not be re-screened. EU agreements with these countries to establish this equivalence are encouraged by the regulation.

Security measures "unforeseen today"

Common security standards not foreseen today and therefore not yet included in the regulation will be adopted under the Parliament/Council co-decision procedure. General implementing measures provided for in the regulation (which Parliament is empowered to veto individually) concern, inter alia, categories of articles that may be prohibited, access controls and criteria for defining critical parts of security-restricted areas.

Procedure and entry into force

Under the co-decision procedure, if Parliament and Council do not reach agreement at the second-reading stage, a Conciliation Committee made up of equal number of MEPs and Council representatives is convened to attempt to negotiate a draft text. If they succeed, this text must then be approved by both institutions - in Parliament, by a majority of the votes cast.

The new regulation will take effect two years after its entry into force. However, the provisions regarding general security measures, specifications for national quality control programmes, security measures required by third countries as well as Commission inspections will apply from the date of the regulation's entry into force, that is 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal.

Source: European Parliament