Ladies and Gentlemen,
We live in volatile and unpredictable times.
Our neighbourhood is ravaged by violent conflicts spilling over national borders.
They cause massive population movements which challenge our social structures.
60 million refugees around the globe remind uş to live up to our legal, moral and political obligations, and the fundamental values of our Union.
Cyber-criminality is on the rise.
Terrorists are emerging both from within our societies, and from our neighbourhood.
Solidarity between us has become harder to ensure.
This year, as we celebrate 60 years of peace, stability and prosperity on the European continent, we cannot take any of these achievements for granted.
Globalisation and increased mobility bring many opportunities – but also challenges and risks.
In all this, security is one of the top concerns of our citizens.
They are concerned about terrorism and the risks to their security – but equally – they do not wish to see their freedoms limited, or their mobility impeded.
Aviation security lies at the very heart of this.
We know that it has always been the crown jewel of every aspiring terrorist.
We are therefore confronted with the fundamental question: how to continue to ensure and facilitate travel and mobility within, towards and outside Europe, while keeping our citizens and our societies safe?
How to enhance mobility will strengthening security?
This is true for aviation security, the sector where many of you operate in.
But is also true for the overall security of our European Union.
If the terrorist attacks across the world in the last two decades have shown one thing, it is that terrorism knows no borders – not in the air or on land, not in Europe, or the US, not in the Middle East or Asia.
So we need a new way of thinking and approaching our security.
A new way of managing and better protecting our borders.
We hear voices that promote closing borders.
But closing borders does not stop the threat.
We need to manage our borders today
- in a smart way
- in an interoperable and interconnected way
- and in a European way – bolstering our external perimeter to keep out the threats, while preserving one the most cherished aspects of our Union: Schengen.
The freedom to move, live, work, study across Europe.
This has been our goal at the EU level when we proposed the European Agenda on Security two years ago, and when we started creating the building blocks for our Security Union.
A genuine and effective Union of Member States, that recognise that security is a collective issue, that needs to be dealt with jointly.
We are today much better equipped than we were two years ago.
We have set up new cooperation structures to ensure that at EU level, we can provide the best support to the operational actions of the Member States.
We have for example set up the European Counter-Terrorism Centre in Europol, whose resources we are constantly reinforcing.
But the threat remains high and rapidly evolving: new threat patterns, new modi operandi.
This calls for our constant vigilance, for more strategic anticipation to stay ahead of the threat.
We have identified gaps in our information exchange systems. We have made proposals to upgrade existing information systems (such as the Schengen Information System for example), adopted new systems when required (such as the European Passenger Name Records framework) and have made proposals for future systems to fill a gap that was identified (such as ETIAS – the European ESTA, and the Entry-Exit System).
Our Member States are now in the process of building their own PNR systems after the PNR Directive was adopted last year in April.
As a consequence, by May next year, Europe will have its own PNR framework.
Air carriers play an essential role in the mechanism established by the Directive as it is they who must provide Member States with PNR data.
All these systems are vital for aviation security.
We want to know who comes in, from where, and for which reason – and if there are any security risks.
But it's not just about creating more information systems. We also need to make sure that these systems talk to each other, that they are connected.
Our border guards and police officers should all have the right information at the right time.
We want all the border management, migration and security data systems at EU level to be interoperable. And this is what we have been working on for more than a year now.
Recently we proposed to strengthen our centralised agency, eu-LISA, where all our information systems come together.
The idea is that:
• all the systems can be searched at the same time using a European search portal, in full compliance with data protection rules;
• the systems use a shared biometric matching service to enable searches across different databases with biometric data;
• the systems share a common identity repository with alphanumeric identity data, to detect if a person is registered under multiple identities in different databases.
Airports are a crucial part of the equation here as they are entry points into the Union.
They are key points of control, where border guards need to have all the necessary information at their fingerprints to make a decision:
Is the person in front of me a potential threat to the Union?
Does the person in front of me pose an irregular migration risk?
Is this person really the person he says he is?
Could this person be a returning terrorist foreign fighter?
Our stronger, smarter, interoperable information systems will, by 2020, be able to help perform this mission better, faster and with more reliable information to make the decision. Our systems will facilitate this work without creating a new burden or unnecessary queues.
Even with better information systems however, the threats will not go away. Our airports, our aircraft will always be big targets for terrorist attacks.
As controlled and secure as these spaces may be, recent attacks have shown how easy it can be for a terrorist to attack soft targets and mass events.
Landside areas are of course the most vulnerable.
This is where your work comes in, on evaluating threats and assessing vulnerabilities.
Your risk assessments for the terminal public areas have to be thorough and forward looking.
Taking in all the latest information about developing security threats.
They should be based on local knowledge – Brussels cannot do this for you – but they should be updated regularly, and reinforced with information from partners in Europe and beyond.
What we can do from Brussels to help your work in this area, is to create networks of best practice.
To guide you, and to connect you to other authorities from across Europe that face similar challenges.
To focus on where the major vulnerabilities are. To assess them, and steer our discussion towards solutions.
To create fora for the exchange of ideas on how best to secure our infrastructure and our citizens against the threats.
Earlier this year, in February we organised an EU workshop on soft target protection.
With AIRPOL, we brought together public authorities responsible for transport and other public areas to exchange information and best practices to enhance security.
A major issue here is the threat from insiders.
Airport staff that may suddenly become radicalised.
Insiders that may be connected to extremist elements.
The Metrojet and Daalo Airline incidents are still very fresh in our memories: potentially radicalised staff represent a major source vulnerability.
Our vetting standards for airports and other key staff need to be reviewed at EU level.
Awareness on insider threats is also key.
On 1 January 2017 we launched an awareness raising project with transport and security providers.
We want to continue working with industry on this important project in the coming months.
Just last week, we had a first meeting with Member States' authorities responsible for vetting procedures to explore how the process can be made more effective.
This work will be stepped up in the coming months.
But the security of air transport does not stand on its own.
One thing is crystal clear today: it is no longer an option to work in silos anymore when it comes to security.
This is why at EU level we have strengthened the legislation against illicit firearms acquisition and trafficking, we updated our criminal justice framework against terrorism, and stepped up our fight against terrorism financing.
This is also why we are stepping up our anti-radicalisation work at all levels.
As I said earlier, if we want to increase security and fight terrorism more effectively we can only do this globally and specifically with our strategic partners.
Europe is not an island.
We are of course fully engaged multilaterally through the International Civil Aviation Organization.
What is ever more critical, is of course the engagement and the intelligence sharing between partners – not just within the EU, but also outside.
And here of course, I am referring primarily to the United States – not just on aviation security, but on our collective security overall.
The threat from personal electronics to aviation security has been in the news for months.
The US banned laptops from countries in the Middle East.
It was widely rumoured that Europe was next.
That is when we took the initiative to open a frank and open channel of communication with our American partners.
On the basis of trust and friendship, with my US counterpart, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, we acknowledged that the threat we face is common.
The concerns are also common.
We agreed on the need to raise the bar of aviation security globally.
Secretary Kelly made clear that banning electronics on flights from Europe is still on the table.
But through sharing all the information we both had, looking at common measures to mitigate the threat, we arrived to a point where, for now at least, that is not necessary.
Two weeks ago, US authorities announced new enhanced security measures for all commercial flights to the US.
These measures are fully in line with the measures that we have been taking across Europe already.
For example on stepping up the vetting of insiders, that I mentioned earlier.
On better detection technology, such as computer tomography –which we already have in some airports in Europe.
On advanced passenger information sharing – which we do through PNR.
Aviation security is therefore an excellent example where global cooperation, on global issues such as security can produce global solutions.
Of course, this cooperation does not stop here.
And it goes beyond the very tangible issues such as aviation threats.
The internet and on-line world are increasingly becoming the battleground against terrorism.
Threats against our aviation, can materialise because of all the propaganda and terrorist manuals people can find easily online.
This is one of our top concerns when it comes to fighting terrorism.
Through our EU Internet Forum, we have been working for two years with big internet platforms to take down internet propaganda. Over 30.000 pieces of content have been removed.
Here of course you will ask, what is 30.000 videos or images compared to all the terrorist material online. And you would be right – it is a drop in the ocean.
As for aviation security, also on the internet, we need to do more.
That is why we are now stepping up this work, and taking it to a global level.
The internet industry is setting up a global forum against terrorism online, based exactly on the model of cooperation and content removal we established in the EU.
Cybersecurity is another key angle – certainly affecting aviation, but also our economies, our societies and our citizens more widely.
The last global attack – so called "Not Petya" – affected not only banks, hospitals, the transport sector.
It affected Chernobyl.
Cyber threats are a constant moving target. They have become an instrument of geopolitics.
The urgency to act is obvious.
We need flexible structures and direct dialogues with industry, both large and small.
The aviation sector is a key operator of essential services.
It should therefore be bastion of resilience to cyber-threats.
In September, we will put forward a new cybersecurity strategy to bolster our defences.
We will review everything about the way we do cybersecurity today – from research and training to the way our operational agencies coordinate their response between them, and with our Member States.
The European Aviation Safety Agency has also made cybersecurity a priority and they established a European Centre for Cyber Security in Aviation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
To address today's security challenges, we need to look at security holistically.
We know that our geopolitical context will not change any time soon.
Beyond our relationship with the US that I mentioned, we need to continue investing in strengthening our security partnerships with Turkey, the Middle East, the Western Balkans and Northern Africa.
Aviation is a silver thread connecting all of these elements.
Not only for the mobility of our citizens, but also for the proliferation of the threat across the globe.
This threat is collective. And only collectively can we address it.
We cannot, and should not reverse the great achievements of globalisation, of mobility, of technology.
And we should never renounce our freedoms.
But we need to navigate this volatile era with a steady compass: resolved to play a role commensurate to Europe's history, with a strong Security Union protecting our citizens at home, and a truly global voice for Europe in the world.