All of us are shaken by today's events, but blaming airports for proving an easy target in this case is not the answer. Security of citizens around the world is vital, but giving up the freedoms and unity of Europe in these circumstances is akin to capitulation.
Europe’s Airports Council International (ACI-Europe), itself located in Brussels, released a statement expressing sorrow and shock at today’s attacks in the city.
The organization has also presented its view going-forward on increased security at Europe’s airports and asked for greater intelligence sharing throughout the region.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of today’s attacks. Our thoughts are also with our colleagues at Brussels Airport and those working in the EU institutions and other organisations located near Maelbeek metro station,” the organization said.
ACI-Europe addressed media queries saying that when considering increased security measures “It is appropriate to consider what is already in place.”
While stating that airports are highly regulated, the association pointed out that regulations focus on “airside spaces,” those beyond the security checkpoint and accessible only to ticket-holding passengers. That is contrasted with the “landside” public spaces where the attacks on Brussels airport took place.
The objective of existing regulations, the association said, has been to prevent interference with air transport which has been “a prominent target of terrorists for several decades.”
While the regulations protecting air transport have been harmonized throughout Europe, security at public airport areas is subject to and policed by local regulations that are based on security measures established on a national level and considered no differently than other public spaces with no “common EU security framework.”
ACI-Europe therefore says these national authorities must “review and adopt appropriate measures, matching their specific threat scenario.”
National Security Review
After the Brussels attacks, ACI-Europe advises it is cooperating fully with governments and security authorities in Belgium and elsewhere in the EU as they review terrorist threat levels, increase landside (public area) security measures at airports and at “other key locations.”
However, ACI-Europe urged caution with the implementation of new security measures, like personal checks individuals arriving at public airport areas, which could disrupt normal airport procedures and create new security vulnerabilities by moving passengers and visitors to spaces at the airport which were not designed for group screenings “moving the target rather than securing it.”
ACI-Europe also cautioned that, as security processes are reviewed, authorities should keep in mind that Tuesday’s events are part of a larger pattern of attacks on Europe at a number of public locations over the past six months and not an isolated incident, nor a threat limited to transportation.
“These attacks … are clearly about threatening our entire way of life by targeting other public spaces including places of social gathering and entertainment,” ACI-Europe stated.
It is for this reason that the association urges the EU to establish more effective intelligence sharing, saying, “The best way forward in the fight against terrorism is to step up capabilities for the gathering, coordination, and sharing of intelligence and data.”
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Photo credit: Two people write solidarity messages in chalk outside the stock exchange in Brussels on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP Photo