EU states urged to share more intelligence with airports

Zaventem airport, in peaceful times. [Angel Plaza/Flickr]

European Union aviation security experts agreed on Thursday (31 March) that police and intelligence agencies should share more information with transport authorities and operators to help prevent attacks like last week’s twin bombings at Brussels’ Zaventem airport.

Three suicide bombers killed 32 people at the airport’s departure hall and at a crowded rush-hour metro station on March 22. The strikes on Zaventem reignited a debate about how to secure Europe’s airports without creating too much disruption for travellers.

At an emergency meeting of the Committee for Civil Aviation Security, European Commission sources said experts reviewed existing security measures in landside areas of EU airports, meaning departure halls and other areas that can be accessed without going through normal security checks before boarding.

EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said they agreed on the need for better intelligence-sharing in order to be “even more proactive and even more efficient in safety”.

However, any additional security measures must be proportionate and risk-based, she added., saying: “Right now this is a matter for national authorities.”

As a result, the AVSEC Committee “stressed the importance of a more systematic exchange of experience and best practices on security approaches taken to protect landside areas of airports,” Commission sources said. 

Officials have underline the need to avoid simply “moving” vulnerable areas, for example by introducing screening at airport entrances and thereby creating queues in front of terminals.

Brussels airport delays reopening as Belgium lowers attacks toll to 32

Brussels airport said it would not reopen today (30 March) despite drills to test resuming partial services after the suicide bombings that struck its departure hall and a metro train, as Belgium lowered the death toll to 32.

Commission sources said the discussions will be pursued when national ministers meet at the Informal Transport Council in Amsterdam on 14-15 April. “The Commission will determine further steps, as appropriate,” it said.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings and for strikes that killed 130 people in Paris last November. The need for better intelligence-sharing has become a mantra since the attacks, but this is easier said than done in a bloc of 28 member states with scores of law enforcement and intelligence bodies.

The twin bombings at Brussels' Zaventem airport on 22 March reignited a debate about how to secure Europe's airports without creating too much disruption for travellers.

EU rules (regulation 300/2008) set common basic standards to be applied at all EU airports, including access control and surveillance in the airports.

But EU legislation on aviation security “is defined in such a way that the focus is on prevention acts of unlawful interference to aircraft,” according to a staff working document drafted by the executive in 2012.

Accordingly, airport car parks, airport railway stations and even the check-in areas of airports are not covered by existing EU law.

EU authorities to discuss 'Moscow model' to protect airports

National experts will consider lessons learnt from terrorist attacks in Moscow and in Madrid in a meeting on 11 April to improve security at the airports and mass public transportation systems in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks, EU officials told

  • 14-15 April: Airport security to be further discussed at informal meeting of EU transport ministers in Amsterdam.

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