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Spain leads the call for a common EU policy on airport security

Fri 8th Jan 2010

Britain, the Netherlands and Italy are to introduce the full-body airport scanners, which has divided opinion across the EU. Spain, which currently holds the EU presidency, has called for a common policy over using such scanners, and have agreed to address concerns about passenger privacy.

The Spanish EU presidency has called for a common position throughout the EU on these scanners after a number of states disagreed over the introduction of new security technology.

Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco Lopez made the appeal after EU experts met on Thursday to discuss the proposed measure. A number of EU countries, including Spain, are unhappy about possible privacy issues relating to the scanners, which can "see through" clothing to create three-dimensional images of passengers.

Lopez said that a common approach to security would be more sensible than member states taking individual measures. Britain and Italy have decided to install the scanners, while the Netherlands will increase the scanners already in use from 15 to 60.

"It's better for Europe to have a common position because it makes no sense for European passengers to travel from London to Madrid and back and have different controls," said Lopez. "A common position would be better for all of us, even if it wasn't binding," he continued.

The issue of the proposed security measures arose after Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with an attempt to blow up a US-bound jet from Amsterdam on December 25.

"We should not react hastily and assume that full body scanners are the best security measure," said Lopez. "We have to find the right balance between security and respect for freedoms and privacy."

The EU Commission reported "an exchange of views" over the technology and that "an initiative" on employing it, which had previously been blocked, was being reconsidered.

"If there are no problems with human rights, health, the freedom of citizens and data use, I cannot exclude that the commission could re-open the question of body scanners," EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani said.

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