Germany confirms gaps in airport security monitoring

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Berlin has admitted to failings in airport security checks, causing the Left Party and the Bundespolizei to call for their de-privatisation. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The German government publicly confirmed the validity of a complaint issued by the European Commission in late May before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

“An analysis of quality control reports for 2014 show that quality control measures in certain airports in certain states were not conducted to the extent required and at the frequency required.”

Within the framework of the federal executive administration, the implementation of these quality control measures is to be carried out by the German states, the Internal Affairs Ministry stated.

At the end of May, the European Commission sued Germany before the ECJ over likely deficiencies in airport security controls. The Commission said it had reason to believe that monitoring of such measures is too infrequent and patchy in the Federal Republic.

Quality or quality checks?

According to the Ministry of the Interior, the ECJ’s claim goes back to an EU inspection from 2012.

The Commission, however, did not accuse Germany regarding the quality of security controls themselves but, rather, quality control of such procedures by state authorities.

Now, the government admitted to deficiencies in this regard. However, it indicated, the states are responsible for these quality checks. Competence over German airports is governed by a complicated framework between the federal and state authorities.

Meanwhile, the Commission has also conducted security checks of its own. In late 2014, the executive discovered critical security risks in Germany’s largest airport, Frankfurt am Main. Evaluators were able to smuggle weapons and dangerous items through passenger checks in half of their attempts.

Police association calls for de-privatisation

GdP, the German police association sees the root of the problem in the privatisation of airport security, and is calling for these tasks to be shifted back into the hands of the federal police.

Here, the police are backed by the Left Party. Jan Korte, deputy chairman of the party’s group in the Bundestag, said he sees “no sensible reason why the German government should not reverse the privatisation of air passenger checks”, in a statement for Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

The mistake is in the system, he said. “Whoever puts security in the hands of private persons is making quality a cost factor,” Korte explained.

In addition, Korte is demanding that more personnel be hired.

“By recruiting air security assistants through the national police, a number of problems could be solved at once,” Korte suggested. Then, air passengers could rely on staff conducting the checks to have good qualitative training as well as shorter waiting times.

Further, federal police authorities could directly intervene to conduct controls and give instructions while security personnel would be in a safe employment conditions.

“Long story short: for almost the same amount of money,” Korte emphasised, “there would be more security for all sides.”

The European Commission's complaint filed in May is based on an inspection the institution conducted in Germany. It revealed that some security measures were not adequately monitored by the national authorities. During the various stages of the infringement procedure, the Commission had already requested Germany to ensure compliance with EU law. However, Germany did not take the necessary steps and therefore, the Commission said, it was unable to ensure that potential security shortcomings are swiftly detected and corrected at all German airports.

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