This past week, I have been hopefully offering reassurance across the airwaves, to Consumers worried about flying. I have tried to provide facts about how your security in EU airports is regulated, by reference to 2 principal European Regulations and further laws within the UK. The sheer horror of Brussels cannot be summarised in words except to say that such actions, from Lahore to the sands of the Middle East & North Africa and from the Bosphorus to the far reaches of Western Europe offends all in a civil society.
In the past, societies have tried to rationalise or indeed understand the actions of various terror groups, but, in the case of Daesh, you can only conclude that it is an organisation that holds a wide criminal intent; such an intent reaches far beyond any so-called noble cause.
The understandable reaction to any terror attack is to respond by saying that:
'We must not give into terror'.
It is a determined mantra, but, what exactly does it mean; how does it strengthen our resolve to stand against those who would do us harm?
Following the massacre in Sousse, I commented that an innocence in travel had been lost. Rather than see a resolute global determination, it seems that the mantra of not giving into terror has triumphed over form and attacks in Turkey and Paris has seen a no lesser impotence in how we respond.
To emphasise this point, the Brussels Airport Police initiated strike action, so complicating the re-opening of Brussels Airport (subsequently the strike was averted). In an open letter, the Police told of how they had warned for many months of their suspicions that the airport was being scouted. They provided warnings of suspicious passengers and a fear that those working within the airport environment, held so-called sympathetic views to those who would carry out attacks. Let's remember, it was only a few months ago that it was alleged that 70 security passes at Parisian Airports were withdrawn from employees, because of fears that they were either on watchlists or that they held extremist views. Before we get too precious about the travails on mainland Europe, we must hope that actions to defeat such failures are evident within British airports, train stations and ferry terminals!
It suggests all-in-all that we are reactive to events rather than taking the initiative; is it the case that economic interests trump security concerns under the mask that we must return to 'normal' and 'not give into terror'?
I think the time has come to now seize the initiative. If we are truly serious about not giving into terror, then we may have to accept what may constitute as our new ‘normal’; we may have to accept this position until such time as there is a concerted international effort to deal with the complex roots of this criminal activity.
I was asked the question by many broadcasters; does this mean that the security bubble needs to be extended to cover the entire terminal building; the simple answer was yes, but I would go further.
I think that as a collection of closely linked group of societies, we have to have a mature conversation about not just extending security at airports but also at major hub train stations and ferry ports. As European Regulations speak of perimeter security, we need to define different levels of perimeter. We should introduce a complex set of security, that checks and checks again utilising new forms of technology. In doing so, we are making a positive statement that goes along the lines of:
'OK, you intend to attack us; we say, we are determined to protect our citizens from your actions. Yes, it makes life difficult for our citizens but it also makes life difficult for you. We will introduce these secure zones because we want our citizens to carry on with their daily lives, to travel to work, to go on holiday, to go home in safety. We will make this sacrifice to our daily lives, but in doing so, we will not sacrifice our core principles of civil liberties and will ensure that the human rights of each individual is respected; we will preserve how we live and work'.
Does that sound like giving in?
The problem with taking this robust position is the question of resources. Whilst over many years we have waxed lyrical about living in a low tax economy, we have perhaps taken our eye off the ball, in that if we want to live in a fair and open society, we may have to invest in that society to allow it to function coherently and in safety.
Consider the words of the Belgian Defence Minister; 'We must find a balance between economic needs and security needs'; is that the kind of robust action you are looking for – is it really standing up to such acts or protecting the economic interests of companies who are no doubt losing money? Are we not walking down the same road as Paris, Istanbul, Ankara, Marmaris, Lahore, Sousse, Taba?
Are holidaymakers still being treated as foot-soldiers in the war on terror; is it not time throughout all the key hubs and resorts that we started to treat them with some intelligence and respect?