The evolving threat of terrorism is forcing the EU to rethink strategies, writes Henrik Hololei, Director-General for Mobility and Transport, European Commission

We live in challenging times. The threat of terrorism is ever-present and perhaps now, more than ever, this threat is at the forefront of our minds. 

Civil aviation has long been a desirable target for terrorism.

The capability, technical knowledge, and the evil creativity of terrorists in trying to find ways of causing havoc is constantly evolving.

The challenge for us is to stay one step ahead. 

Mitigating the risks related to flights originating outside the EU is a priority to enhance aviation security

The basis of aviation security remains strong, but the complexity of the current situation, coupled with the determination of terrorists, and their willingness to pay the ultimate price, is forcing us to rethink our strategies and to find new ways of tackling the problem. 

The EU has one of the most advanced aviation security regimes in the world. However, the international dimension of aviation means that acting alone is of limited benefit. 

Mitigating the risks related to flights originating outside the EU is a priority to enhance aviation security. 

This is reinforced by key initiatives such as the recently adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution on Aviation Security, which stresses the importance of international cooperation, with risk constantly being reviewed in accordance with the evolving threat picture.

A coordinated, intelligence-based approach across transport modes, sectors and borders is required

The EU has developed a risk assessment process that now covers incoming flights from third countries, and is also working to boost capacity for these countries to implement effective aviation security measures.

Recent history, however, demonstrates how skilled terrorists have become, such as concealing explosives within electronic devices. 

We increasingly rely on technology capable of adequately detecting, preventing and mitigating the evolving threat. 

This is another area where Europe plays a leading role in terms of policy, through setting standards of detection and stimulating R&D. 

The complexity of aviation security layers, and the dissuasive effect played by the security regime, has resulted in many cases of terrorists diversifying their targets—any public place where people gather is a target. 

Building trust between close partners is essential for the international dimension of aviation security

Therefore “aviation security”, or “transport security” are policy areas that cannot be seen in isolation. 

A coordinated, intelligence-based approach across transport modes, sectors and borders is required—when the terrorist reaches the screening point of the airport, or the entrance to the terminal, it is already too late.    

In this context, the European Commission is constantly striving to make sure that security is tackled in an effective but proportionate way, protecting our citizens as our first priority while respecting the right of individuals to their freedom. 

Proportionality and adopting a risk-based approach are key components of our strategy to protect passengers against harm. 

This also means that seamless cooperation between security and safety experts is crucial to ensure any security measure we contemplate to mitigate a perceived security threat does not jeopardise flight safety, notably during these challenging times.

Building trust and confidence between close partners—as well as cooperating closely and efficiently—is essential for the international dimension of aviation security.

Let’s all contribute to that, and make sure we continue to enjoy seamless travel experiences and the highest level of security at the same time. 

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