Security to Increase on Cross-Border European Trains After Thwarted Terror Attack
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High-level security and transport officials from nine nations and the European Union met in Paris Saturday to figure out how to keep rail passengers safe a week after three Americans along with a British citizen and a French citizen stopped a terror attack on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris, the Associated Press reported.
As the suspect remains in French custody with preliminary terrorism charges, according to the AP, the officials at the meeting took on the difficult task of coming up with solid solutions that protected travelers, but did not constrict the highly valued free travel throughout much of the continent.
Speaking after the meeting, France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, via the AP, reinforced ID and bag checks would occur on cross-border trains "everywhere it is necessary."
Pointing out security holes authorities surely would like plugged, the AP noted the suspect was “on the radar of European surveillance,” but purchased a ticket with cash, without showing identification, then brought an automatic rifle and a handgun onboard undetected.
Some of the items advocated by the group that met Saturday, according to the AP, include passenger names being printed on train tickets, along with train police gaining access to intelligence databases, and making criminal record archives more accessible across Europe.
Working closer with the security-emphasizing post-9/11 aviation industry, and commencing “more mixed patrols of international police teams on cross-border trains,” were also seen as important elements going forward, the AP said.
But violating the sanctity of the Schengen zone is a big no-no to a large number of officials across the continent. This area of Europe, the AP says, is a special area of passport-free travel, and too much monitoring at country lines could constitute border controls, which is illegal in the Schengen zone. Not to mention a major cause of delays. To give a sense of scope, the AP said in France alone, tens of thousands of international train passengers travel daily, plus millions domestically.
Attaching a name to a ticket also raises privacy concerns.
"We can't do and don't want complete, comprehensive checks on people or luggage in trains in Germany or Europe," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on the sidelines of the meeting, according to the AP.
As per the AP, Maiziere said the primary issue is to “improve targeted cooperation and the exchange of information on suspicious people.”
EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc called free travel within Europe "one of our greatest achievements."
"I hope and I also believe we will find the right solution that will not jeopardize these fundamental rights, and at the same time ensure that the security on a European level is at its best," she told reporters after the meeting, the AP said.
Saturday’s meeting, with representatives from France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy,Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, is the just the first in a series of conferences. Europe’s rail security group will debate these security ideas Sept. 11, then that meeting’s findings will be discussed by EU transport ministers Oct. 7-8, the AP said.
Increased closed-circuit cameras in trains and stations, plus metal detectors and full-body scanners may also become grist for the mill in these discussions, according to the AP.
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