Center for Strategic Decision Research


How to Make an Effective Aviation Security Policy

Mr. Alfredo Roma
President, European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC)

Aviation security is a priority of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). Four critical elements are required for the development of an effective civil aviation security policy: enacting security measures into legislation; accepting the fact that security measures are expensive and must be implemented correctly; ensuring a high level of technical equipment and the training of operators responsible for their use; and developing a multilateral approach for the design and application of optimal security measures. 


For 25 years, the European Civil Aviation Conference has accorded top priority to Europe's civil aviation security, both in terms of attention and in dedicated resources. These resources come from our 38 national administrations and also from the ECAC Secretariat. Over the 25-year period we have developed policies to respond to the threats that face air transportation in Europe. We have systematically consulted with Europe's airlines, airports, pilots, manufacturers of security equipment, and so on to ensure that all partners are involved and that their views are taken into account. We have maintained close contacts with the United States, Israel, Canada, and Russia, as well as special relationships with the European Union and of course with ICAO. 

In the struggle to improve security to combat acts of unlawful interference, there can be no room for complacency. We must always ask ourselves if the measures we promulgate are adequate, if the nature of threats is changing, if intelligence gathering is effective, and if intelligence is being shared with the right authorities. To ensure against complacency, I chair four meetings a year of the Directors General of Civil Aviation of ECAC's 38 Member-States, and discuss security matters. On June 11, 2002, the Directors General of ECAC examined and adopted the amendments to ECAC Doc. 30, which had been incorporated to address the post-September 11 scenario. 


Terrible incidents such as that at Lockerbie and those of September 11 galvanized the civil aviation world into action, or, I suppose I should more correctly say, reaction. There was of course no way to prepare ourselves for what happened on September 11. The use of aircraft as weapons by people willing to commit suicide was unprecedented. 

In reaction to these terrible events, many changes have been made to Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention, the annex dedicated to security. These changes were the most far reaching that have ever been made in a single revision. The changes were pushed through with commendable haste by ICAO and its Council President, Dr. Assad Kotaite. I would like to put on record our appreciation of the speed with which ICAO worked. 

In Europe, ECAC did its best to ensure that the measures contained in its policy document would be enacted into legislation in the European Union. Indeed, the European Union, recognizing the merits of ECAC's work, based its legislation on ECAC's security measures. The result of this is that ECAC's 38 Member-States now have an extremely high base of civil aviation security. 

To give you one example, by the end of 2002, 100% of all checked-in baggage in Europe will be screened. The work that has gone into enacting this measure should not be underestimated. While it has taken some time, it should be remembered that very few of our airports were designed with 100% screening of checked-in baggage in mind. There have been, therefore, costly reconfiguration and redevelopment of entire terminals in some cases. The equipment and manpower resources have been expensive and it has been necessary to marshal the necessary funding and, above all else, the political will to ensure that this measure is implemented. 


There is no escaping the fact that ensuring the security of our passengers, airlines, and airports is expensive. This is a fact that all of us, whether at government, airline, or airport level, must face up to and accept. In the end, of course, it is passengers who pay for their security, and there is no doubt that they are willing to do so. 

However, payment for security measures by governments should not result in some airlines or airports being placed at a competitive disadvantage. We look to European Union institutions to ensure that this does not happen and that harmonized measures are put into place in all 38 ECAC Member-States. 

Badly implemented security, with poorly trained personnel and incorrect use of sophisticated equipment, can cost just as much as the best kinds of security. We must therefore ensure that security measures promulgated by ECAC are implemented properly. 

To do this, we developed a voluntary audit system for airports, the first such system to be applied at ICAO regional level. Our highly trained and certified auditors, graduates of the European Aviation Security Training Institute in Brussels, perform thorough, week-long audits of ECAC's airports to ensure compliance with the requirements of ECAC's policy document. This Audit Program has now been in operation for a couple of years, and its methodology is constantly improved and updated to ensure that its findings are put to good use. 

In addition to this work we played a full role in the recent High-Level Ministerial Conference on security organized by ICAO and chaired by Dr. Kotaite. At the Conference, we supported the introduction of an ICAO-wide audit program at both the administration and airport levels. 

European member-states of the ICAO have committed themselves to supporting this audit program financially, understanding that it is necessary to support a program financially to ensure that problems identified in audits can be rectified. The ICAO audit program is scheduled to start in 2003, and I pledge ECAC's full cooperation to ensure its success. 


Effective security, both in the airport and in the air, involves finding the correct relationship between the human operator and increasingly complicated and sophisticated equipment. 

At ECAC we have always attached a great deal of importance to technical development, and our specialists in this field meet at least once a year with representatives of a broad range of security equipment manufacturers. In addition, technical specifications have been drawn up to cover x-ray equipment, metal-detection equipment, and explosive-detection systems and are used by our Member-States to ensure that the equipment at their airports meets the highest standards. Member-States must also ensure that they buy the best equipment for their airport's circumstances, that the equipment is maintained and calibrated according to specifications outlined in ECAC documentation, and, most importantly, that the human operators are properly trained in the equipment's use. 

The emphasis on training cannot be too great. To aid in that training, the European Aviation Security Training Institute in Brussels conducts workshops and training courses at an international level on all aspects of civil aviation security. The potential weakness in any civil aviation security system is not the equipment but the human operators, so a renewed emphasis on recruitment, fair pay, and intensive and recurring training is vital. The manufacturing industry will deliver the required technical equipment, but we must ensure that the operators use it properly and are properly trained to do so. 

In October of 2002, ECAC, in cooperation with IATA and ACI, the worldwide bodies representing airlines and airports, will host in Rome an international civil aviation security symposium that will bring together experts from around the world. An exhibition of the most up-to-date security equipment will be run at the same time and on the same premises, with leading civil aviation security equipment manufacturers from around the world demonstrating and discussing their machinery. 


It is particularly appropriate that I address the issue of international cooperation in the presence of Dr. Kotaite, since this issue goes to the heart of ICAO's role in the world of civil aviation. 

I have already mentioned the High-Level Ministerial Conference organized by ICAO, at which most Member-States were present. During that Conference, a most welcome spirit of multilateral cooperation was manifested. The Conference and its determinations resulted in a new challenge for us to ensure the security of the international air transportation industry. 

Developing a multilateral approach under the auspices of the organization we established for this very purpose is therefore more important now than ever. The ICAO Council has been charged with developing a Plan of Action, which must be adopted no later than June 14, 2002, to strengthen aviation security worldwide. Individual ICAO member-states and regional organizations such as ECAC are all actively cooperating in this work. 

Individual governments are of course responsible for their own security and are the best judges of what is required in their circumstances. However, when we seek to design aviation security procedures or measures that are to be applied on an international basis and that will involve many other sovereign states, the appropriate organization for this is, of course, ICAO. 


When faced with terrorist threats against its air transportation industry, it is tempting for individual nations to take measures they deem appropriate on a national basis without consulting on a multilateral basis. But this should be avoided. It is only by working together that we will succeed in designing and applying the best security measures available. Widespread goodwill now exists to ensure that shocking breaches in our aviation security system do not reoccur. The single best way to tap into this goodwill is through international consultation and, in particular, through the mechanisms of ICAO. 


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