(Geneva) The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the European Commission's approval of an agreement with the United States on the sharing of passenger data.

"I applaud the leadership of Vice President Frattini and Secretary Chertoff in reaching an agreement that will allow airlines to meet US data provision requirements without contravening Europe's privacy laws. This is an important agreement that will ensure normal operations for the 105,000 passengers who fly between these two jurisdictions each day," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General.

Bisignani commented on the need for a harmonised approach to security issues. "The lessons from the foiled London terror plot this summer are clear. Intelligence and information sharing are of critical importance. Today's agreement is a major step in the right direction. Now it is time for governments to move on to further harmonisation and joint recognition of standards in other areas of security. Global standards are what made air transport the safest mode of transport. This must also drive the agenda on security," said Bisignani.

Bisignani also took the opportunity to remind governments that security is a national responsibility. "Airlines are now saddled with a US$5.6 billion annual bill for security measures put in place since 2001. We have a much more secure industry, but governments are shirking their responsibility to pay the bill. In August the European Commission agreed that its member states must stop passing the buck to the airlines. Now we need action at state level in Europe and elsewhere. Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens everywhere, whether in public parks, shopping malls, at schools or on planes," said Bisignani.