EU fears over ability to react to 9/11-type attack

18th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

18 January 2006, BRUSSELS — European aviation and security officials have raised concerns that national policies limit their defence against a September 11-style attack.

18 January 2006

BRUSSELS — European aviation and security officials have raised concerns that national policies limit their defence against a September 11-style attack.

Despite European Union attempts to harmonise anti-terrorism policies among member states, European nations still maintain contradictory rules and regulations when presented with the threat of a hijacked airliner.

"It's a very, very complex issue to come to a conclusion on because there are so many partners involved," the director of security affairs for European aviation authority Eurocontrol, Bo Redeborn, told newspaper 'The Washington Post'.

The issue is highlighted by an alert issued on 1 May 2004 when an Air Europa airliner lost contact with radio control as it flew over Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands before entering Belgian airspace.

As fears mounted of a suicide attack in Brussels as the EU celebrated its expansion with 10 new member states, three countries scrambled fighter jets. Air Europa pilots eventually informed authorities that everything was fine.

The EU's counter-terrorism chief, Gijs de Vries, has since said security officials are working to improve Europe-wide readiness for a hijacking, but declined to discuss details last year.

NATO also monitors the skies and will scramble jets on the orders of national authorities, but has no authority to fire upon hijacked airliners.

"The notion of national sovereignty is very strong. To go after civilian airlines with passengers on them, we'll defer on that," NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in September.

"We are very well served by our ability to identify threats. We've got the communications, we've got the radars. The difficult bit comes when you have identified a renegade aircraft," a NATO official in Brussels said.

And the director of the Brussels-based security research centre New Defense Agenda, Giles Merritt, said many officials refuse to consider the option of shooting down an airliner. Instead, the emphasis is on intelligence and prevention, he said.

Copyright Expatica News 2006

Subject: German news

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