Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

EU members divided over airport body scanners

Body scanner at Schiphol airport
The scanners are being tried out at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport

EU countries have been debating the use of body scanners at airports, in response to the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a US-bound jet.

The European Commission is holding talks with aviation security experts from the EU member states in Brussels.

Italy has said it will introduce the scanners for US-bound flights, alongside the Netherlands and the UK.

The 27 EU countries are free to use the scanners as long as the security checks do not contradict national or EU law.

A Nigerian man is accused of trying to blow up a flight from Schiphol on 25 December as it prepared to land in Detroit. He had not gone through a scanner.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, Belgium's Transport Secretary Etiennne Schouppe said the measures were "excessive", adding that security requirements at European airports were already "strict enough".

Italy announced it would introduce the scanners as an experiment at airports in Milan (Malpensa), Rome (Fiumicino) and Venice.

Spain has said it will wait until the Commission has made a decision regarding the scanners, while France and Germany remain uncommitted.

Trial run

Schiphol airport in Amsterdam has been trying out the scanners, which use microwaves to see through clothing.

An official checks passengers' documents at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, 29 December 2009
US airport security measures have been tightened since the alleged plot

The Commission withdrew a draft EU regulation on body scanners in 2008, following objections from the European Parliament.

MEPs raised concerns about passengers' privacy and health, so the Commission decided that further technical analysis was required before EU-wide rules could be adopted.

The Commission says it "remains convinced that body scanners can play a very useful role as a complementary means of screening".

Some governments argue that the scanners are a necessary tool in the fight against terrorism.

But some civil liberties campaigners say the equipment could breach child protection laws and invade people's privacy, as it produces a "near naked" image.

The US has singled out 14 countries, including Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, for enhanced security measures for travellers.

Since November 2006 the EU has enforced a ban on carrying liquids onto planes in hand luggage. No liquids in containers bigger than 100ml are allowed.

That ban followed the exposure of an alleged terrorist plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes at London's Heathrow airport in August 2006.

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