EU Call for Urgent Discussions With US Over Possible Electronics Cabin Ban

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News agency Reuters reported last night that the European Union has been seeking urgent dialogue with Washington over the proposed extension of the electronics cabin ban to include flights from Europe to the USA.

EU Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, and Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos sent a letter to John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, stating,

“We… reiterate our willingness to pursue constructive dialogue and we propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures”.

Putting my ‘politico hat’ on for a moment, what that really means is that European leaders want to know more about two things asap.

  1. The intelligence that the US has as regards the threat posed from electronic devices larger than a mobile phone in the cabin of a passenger plane. Apart from the UK, no other EU member state is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ signals intelligence gathering and sharing agreement. Washington seems to believe (rightly or wrongly) that there is a credible threat, and it doesn’t seem like EU allies have seen all the same information yet. At the very least, they appear to have come to quite different conclusions about the intelligence if they have seen it, and wish to make those conclusions clear to the Trump administration.
  2. EU leaders want the heads-up on what potential measures are being planned and hope to try and influence those decisions to minimise disruption.

For what it’s worth, my take on this is that the position of the European Commissioners is entirely sensible. If there is a genuine threat, then it would be prudent to assume that it applies just as much to flights between Berlin and London as it does to flights from Paris to New York. If the intelligence isn’t clear, then introducing a policy that will certainly be inconvenient and could potentially damage both the European and US economies, may not be the best way forward at this time.

What is a little concerning is that we are now more than 6 weeks on from the original electronics cabin ban, and the issue is having to be raised publicly in an attempt to force clarity and actually get some meetings going. For obvious reasons, these sort of discussions should have been happening for weeks now and should really be conducted entirely behind closed doors whenever possible.

Bottom line

As I have mentioned before, this is a story that feels like it’s going somewhere – I would expect an announcement confirming some sort of expansion of the ban soon. What the details might be, we’ll have to wait and see.


  1. Dr Redeye says

    Make everybody live in a state of heightened fear, then when nothing happens you can proclaim your credibilities as a real political “strongman”.
    The Trump administration would never do that though.

  2. NB says

    It’s difficult to see why the ban should be westward only when US security is less effective than European and the US is as weaponised as the ghettos of Brussels or Hamburg. So it does seem that politics have become involved.

    You may also be correct about the letter being sent by the EU. I wonder if the UK will have distanced itself from it. The UK is not about to open up Five Eyes info to the Europeans and the US would not permit it. Five Eyes itself is probably the EU’s biggest resentment against the UK and the security which it offers to Europe is probably the biggest bargaining chip in the forthcoming negotiations. The EU will not take this lying down and will do everything possible to drive a wedge between the UK and the US.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Exactly – the stats on TSA failure are genuinely appalling.

      The letter seems to have slowed down implementation for a short while at least, with meetings now scheduled for next week.

  3. Craig Sowerby says

    Perhaps it’s time to require visas for U.S. citizens. Isn’t the EU currently waiving the requirement for countries to accept ALL EU countries visa-free in exchange for visa free access to Europe?

    If the USA claims that certain classes of EU citizen require visas AND that Europeans are potentially laptop-bombing terrorists, then maybe it’s time to apply the same logic in reverse.

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