I sincerely believe that we could not meet in a better location. Athens will be in the limelight next year. The Olympics is the most prestigious and the most complicated event that a city can organize.
There are no successful Olympics without adequate infrastructure. Most people will think of stadiums, roads, gymnasiums, swimming pools and an Olympic village. But air transport infrastructure is about as important as the above.
Athens enjoys today one the most modern and efficient airports in Europe: Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.
The recent air navigation agreement between Turkey and Greece also allows for straighter routes and more usable airspace over the Aegean.
The Olympics need infrastructure but since Munich 1972 and Atlanta 2000, we also know that security is an essential item for such an event.
It is therefore appropriate for this AVSEC meeting to have chosen this venue.
THE STATE OF OUR INDUSTRY
You are all aware that the air transport industry is going through its worst crisis ever.
In 2002 alone, the cost of extra security measures reached 5 billion dollars, thus contributing to the general financial crisis.
Preliminary traffic figures for October confirm, however, that the recovery is now in full swing.
International traffic in 2003 will nearly match the 2002 figures, and this in spite of the war in Iraq, SARS and a global economic slowdown.
SECURITY: A GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITY
In the next three days, you will be examining many issues that relate to air transport security.
The situation created by the tragic events of September 11, 2001 is still with us. And with us also, the stigma that aviation became an instrument of terror. Air transport was not, however, the target of the terrorists but only a tool to threaten society at large.
One needs to constantly remind governments all over the world about this basic fact. Terrorists are not at war with air transport, they are at war with the world order.
Security is therefore an issue that goes way beyond aviation. It is a government responsibility, just like war and peace. And the costs related to making the world secure from terrorism must be assumed by society at large and not by one industry! This is the core of the message that our industry must constantly convey to the world.
The US Government acknowledged this state of affairs when it exempted airlines from paying security taxes. This measure, that represented a contribution of 3.2 billion dollars, has lapsed.
Terrorism is a threat against the State and the cost of aviation security must be borne by the State through general revenue and not from special taxes and user fees.
Here in Europe, our industry is pushing for a decision by the EU Council to oblige governments to assume responsibility for and funding of security measures. IATA is fully involved in this industry effort.
Aviation cannot be discriminated against when the state provides security for other modes of transport, free of charge. States have the responsibility for protecting civil aircraft, not only on the ground but in the air.
THE THREAT OF MANPADS
This means protection against attacks by MANPADS or shoulder-held ground-to-air missiles.
IATA is playing a major role in the ICAO group that is developing guidance material for countermeasures to the threat posed by MANPADS. It is concentrating on ground based and other countermeasures aside from on-board systems. Numerous States, like Australia, Israel, the UK and the US are currently studying this issue. IATA will be fully involved in this work.
We must avoid measures based on an emotional reaction to political or media pressures. At the same time we must have credible, effective proposals to address these threats. Counter-measures must be threat based. Here, efforts need to concentrate on intelligence sharing.
The restrictions on the movement of MANPADS systems between States is also critical. Whatever governments decide on the issue of MANPADS, it must be made crystal clear that the airlines cannot bear the cost of another new series of security measures.
GLOBAL HARMONIZATION OF SECURITY MEASURES
In all instances, IATA strongly believes that States must work together, with input from our industry to implement globally recognized standards. These harmonized standards should be based on ICAO Annex 17. IATA fully supports the harmonization efforts underway through ICAO, EU/ECAC and now the EU/TSA Multi-modal Transportation Security Group.
There are numerous issues that remain outstanding and need to be dealt with urgently. Allow me to deal briefly with a few of them.
One is the US requirement to re-screen all international checked baggage on arrival in the US before it can be transported within the US. This is an unnecessary impediment to the smooth processing of passengers and their baggage. IATA proposes that baggage originating in countries with known high-quality levels of baggage security should not be re-screened.
Another outstanding issue is air cargo security. Our industry fully supports the need to review and strengthen air cargo security. Any suggestion dealing with the cargo screening must take into account the sheer size of the problem. Last year, IATA Members carried more than 40 million tons of cargo!
We must, as an industry, put forward alternative programs that can effectively address cargo concerns; programs that won't choke the cargo business. Within Europe, but also elsewhere, there is a high degree of disharmony among the systems.
While the Commission is proposing that each Member State should test and certify the equipment, we advocate an EU-wide certification. The Commission should appoint competent authorities to perform the certification and establish common equipment standards.
Finally, there is an urgent need for a standardized method for submission of Air Carrier Security Programs as required under the EU regulations. Biometrics, in particular, can play a crucial role in the positive identification of passengers. But the use of biometrics must be based on globally harmonized standards.
ICAO has now adopted a global standard for biometrics in machine-readable travel documents. All States need to implement this standard in the quickest possible timeframe.
We must ensure that these systems can be operated around the world. Only a globally harmonized system can facilitate the smooth flow of passengers through security and border control formalities.
These are some of the key topics I wanted to address today.
Security has truly become a global obsession. Air transport is doing more than its share to keep our industry secure.
This AVSEC World meeting covers a multitude of subjects and is, in itself, a concrete proof of our industry's security commitment.
In closing, I would like to thank our partners ECAC, ACI and ICAO for their enthusiastic contribution to the success of this meeting.
I wish you all a fruitful and productive conference.
Thank you.Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General & CEO addresses the opening of AVSEC World 2003 in Athens, Greece.