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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 13:48 GMT
New Europe rules on sky marshals
Armed policeman on guard at Glasgow Airport. File photo
Tougher measures would have to be proportionate, MEPs say
European lawmakers have backed new rules allowing the use of armed guards on EU flights under strict conditions.

Although sky marshals do already operate within the EU, they will be able to carry weapons on flights only if all nations involved agree.

The rules, backed by all 27 EU states, aim to give the bloc a bigger role in security on flights and at airports.

Governments will have to tell the EU if they adopt tougher measures which will have to be justified as proportionate.

The regulations - which have taken years to agree - will replace those hastily drawn up after the 11 September attacks in the United States.

Those [more stringent] measures shall be relevant, objective, non-discriminatory and proportional to the risk that is being addressed
EU rules on civil aviation security

British Labour MEP Robert Evans said that member states could decide to employ sky marshals on board flights but they would have to be "government personnel, specially selected and trained".

He also said that countries would now work collectively on screening people and baggage.

The European Cockpit Association which was involved in drawing up the new rules welcomed the changes.

Its legal adviser Ignacio Plaza told the BBC News website that the EU would now be able to have a say on the use of armed guards.

"When the US ordered European companies to have sky marshals, the commission couldn't do anything. Now the EU has the possibility to react to the issue," he said.

Passenger confusion

When the UK restricted the amount of liquid that passengers could take on board flights in their hand luggage in 2006, the measures were not adopted across Europe.

Although the British government did work with the European Commission at the time, the measures still caused confusion among travellers.

Mr Plaza said security was still "a touchy subject" for governments because - while they wanted to have the power to impose rules - it might cause "a problem of harmonisation".

Under the new regulations, if member states want to adopt more stringent measures than the basic agreed standards, they will have to be "relevant, objective, non-discriminatory and proportional to the risk".

Governments will also have to tell the European Commission about the measures as soon as they are adopted.



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