The European Union pressed the U.S. to refrain from unilaterally banning laptops in the cabins of airliners flying to America from Europe, saying both sides need to work in tandem to curb the threat of terrorism.
A day before European and U.S. officials meet in Brussels to weigh the merits of barring air passengers from carrying laptops on board, the EU’s home-affairs chief cautioned against any hasty decision by officials in Washington. At issue is whether the U.S. government will extend to Europe a ban imposed in March on electronic devices larger than mobile phones — including tablets, laptops and DVD players — in jetliner cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.
“We are very much concerned,” EU Home-Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters on Tuesday in Strasbourg, France. “We know that unilateral decisions should not be taken.”
Heightened European worries about go-it-alone American security moves come after the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump revealed to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador closely held intelligence from a U.S. partner about an Islamic State terrorist plot to use laptop computers as possible weapons aboard commercial aircraft.
The European Commission, the 28-nation EU’s executive arm in Brussels, is coordinating the bloc’s response to the U.S. aviation-security deliberations. The May 17 EU-U.S. meeting will involve an “information exchange,” said European Security Commissioner Julian King.
“We’ve had earlier discussions, but we are having an update discussion tomorrow,” King told Bloomberg News in Strasbourg. Asked whether he expects any conclusions from the gathering, he said: “I don’t know; we’ll have to see.”
A senior EU official who is involved in the matter and who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the commission’s concerns have so far prevented the U.S. from widening to Europe the prohibition on laptops in airliner cabins. The official said Wednesday’s meeting would be a “marathon” session.
In his remarks to reporters, Avramopoulos sounded an upbeat note on the possible outcome of the EU engagement with the U.S. over the matter.
“We are going to have a very fruitful discussion,” Avramopoulos said. “And the conclusions of this discussion will lead to the adoption of a common policy.”
–With assistance from Jones Hayden
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