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A body scanner demonstration
Britain, the Netherlands and Italy are to introduce the scannersImage: AP

EU scanner policy

January 7, 2010

The thorny topic of airport security has divided EU nations. Spain, which currently holds the EU presidency, has called for a common policy over using body scanners that takes concerns about privacy into account.


The Spanish EU presidency has called for a common European position on airport body scanners after member states clashed over the introduction of new security technology.

Spanish Transport Minister Jose Blanco Lopez made his 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 unilateral measures. Britain and Italy have decided to install the devices, while the Netherlands will increase the number 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 said.

Sparked by bomb attempt

The question of new security measures arose after Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with trying 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 European Commission said that there had been "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.


Editor: Susan Houlton

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