EC warns over air cargo security checks

Stepping up security checks on air cargo will not be enough to tackle the latest aviation terror threat, the European Commission warned today.

Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, hosting talks in Brussels to assess the increased risk, said there was already a "robust" system of air cargo security in Europe in place since 2003, reinforced last April.

It was a system "built on the principles of supply chain security and screening of shipments."

Mr Kallas went on: "The 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 he said: "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."

Today's talks, involving security experts from the member states, would consider the next steps to boost the EU-wide security system for cargo and mail.

He said the priorities were to protect citizens while preserving an efficient air transport system and safeguarding air transport's "crucial" role in the economy.

To be effective, Europe had to work closely with the US: "There is no point 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 co-operation with international partners will also take place in the International Civil Aviation Organisation."

The Commission is now planning new security proposals to present to EU transport ministers at talks next month.