Airport Twinning: A new ACI EUROPE security project initiative

airport twinning

At the 35th ACI EUROPE Aviation Security Committee meeting, Madrid, 14-15 April, ACI EUROPE presented its own capacity-building programme, “Airport Twinning”, which is set to operate in parallel to the ECAC “Towards One Stop Security” programme.

At the 35th ACI EUROPE Aviation Security Committee meeting, Madrid, 14-15 April, an event that gathered almost 100 aviation security managers and experts from European airports and World Business Partners, ACI EUROPE unveiled the details of an all-new aviation security project that aims to support non-EU member airports with the enhancement of their security measures and eventually increase their chances of being accepted into the EU One-Stop Security agreement. Achmet EL Sarkaoui reports.

Capacity building in aviation security has been on the security agenda for some time. The need to arrive at a flawless security regime at airports is of vital importance as the attractiveness of airport infrastructure as a target for terrorist attacks is growing. While EU Member States are forced to abide by Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/1998, which lays down detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security, non-EU states are not obliged to do the same. This inconsistency reduces the trust of aviation security standards between EU and non-EU airports, preventing the expansion of the EU One-Stop Security (OSS) agreement whereby passengers, baggage and/or cargo arriving into the EU do not need to be subjected to a second security control when transferring at EU airports. The EU’s regulatory framework provides for the recognition of security standards applied in a non-EU country where those standards are equivalent to EU standards. Montenegro is one of the first countries that achieved recognition of security standards equivalent to the EU and has been included in the OSS agreement since February 2016.

The achievement of Montenegro would not be possible without the presence of capacity building programmes such as the European Civil Aviation Conference’s (ECAC) “Towards One Stop Security” programme. The project consists of a security audit where non-EU ECAC States, like Montenegro, are assessed to determine whether aviation security measures comply with ECAC Doc 30 standards. ECAC States that pass the ECAC audit are then able to submit a request to the European Commission to be considered for inclusion in the OSS agreement. These states undergo an EU inspection to determine whether aviation security standards follow EU Regulation 2015/1998 and whether they can be included in the One-Stop Security agreement with the EU. It is worth mentioning that ECAC Doc 30 follows the same aviation security measures and standards that are directly applied in EU Regulation 2015/1998, with the only difference being that the measures laid down in ECAC Doc 30 are not obligatory for ECAC member states.

As EU institutions, like ECAC and the European Commission, are making utmost progress to standardise and expand on aviation security measures in Europe, it is now up to industry stakeholders to take the lead and build on their efforts. ACI EUROPE has already taken the initiative and presented its own capacity-building programme, “Airport Twinning”, which is set to operate in parallel to the ECAC “Towards One Stop Security” programme. The procedure would include two airports (possibly from the same region and with direct flight links) that would cooperate to share expertise and best practices. The EU partner airport would send a team of security staff to the non-EU ECAC State host airport to carry out a peer-review of the security measures to ensure that standards are set according to EU Doc 30. This would ensure that the non-EU ECAC state airports would be prepared for the ECAC Audit and subsequently, an EU inspection as well.

Airport twinning would expand the OSS agreement by preparing more airports for the ECAC and EU inspections. Unlike the ECAC audit and EU inspection, the twinning exercise would be treated as a peer review to provide feedback on how to improve and guidance on how to proceed in order to achieve OSS with the EU. ACI EUROPE would be offering support and help for its non-EU member airports and in turn, EU partner airports would treat the exercise as career progression and development for their staff team. Participants of the ACI EUROPE Aviation Security Committee meeting held in Madrid demonstrated overall support and endorsement to the twinning project and a number of EU and non-EU airports are looking forward to participating in the project.

This is an entirely new initiative, suggesting that there are various issues to consider before conducting the first twinning exercise. As the programme is anticipated to work in parallel to the ECAC “Towards One Stop Security” Programme, the first airports to consider for a twinning exercise are Tirana Airport in Albania and Skopje Airport in FYROM, as these are the airports awaiting security audits from ECAC. That does not necessarily imply that other airports cannot volunteer for the exercise as many other non-EU airports, such as Sarajevo Airport and Kutaisi Airport, which are members of ACI EUROPE, may also be interested in a twinning exercise review. Guidance material, as well as surveys and questionnaires, need to be developed in order to meet the requirements of each of these host airports. The exercise may also require airports to receive approval from their national aviation authorities, leading to a need for a formal agreement between the EU partner and host airport. The agreement would also cover the funding procedure of the exercise. As this is an airport-driven initiative, the services of the ACI EUROPE security exercise team would be provided without charge for the entire duration of the twinning exercise and in return, the host airport would be responsible for covering the direct costs of the team. Lastly, the composition of the exercise team may be comprised of more than one EU-partner airport. Non-EU airports that wish to take part in an Airport Twinning review, as well as airports wanting to contribute personnel to the security review team, are invited to get in touch with David Trembaczowski-Ryder (david.ryder@aci-europe.org), Head of Aviation Security at ACI EUROPE.

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