U.S. Seeks Tougher EU Flight Security

The Bush administration demands the EU approve a list of air security increases, including armed guards on all flights. Europe may resist

Armed guards on all trans-Atlantic flights and a multiday waiting period for Europeans looking to travel to the US -- those are two of seven bold new measures the US is asking the European Union to implement in an effort to boost transatlantic airline security.

The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday that all 27 EU members are being asked to sign off on the memorandum of understanding, which was circulating in Brussels and capitals across Europe over the weekend. Some EU officials described Washington's demands as "blackmail" and "troublesome."

The memorandum declared that the US would seek to place armed US Marshals on all transatlantic flights and that, within months, a new permit system could require EU citizens to apply online for a permit to enter the US -- a process that could take several days and would need to be completed before purchasing an airline ticket.

That new system would be in addition to an extensive personal information-sharing arrangement that already exists between the EU and the US to facilitate "profiling" of potential terrorists.

Also included in the potential security clampdown is a stipulation that EU passengers flying over -- but not landing in -- the US would need to provide comprehensive personal data to US authorities.

If Europe does not agree to the heightened security measures, the memorandum threatened, most Europeans' visa-free travel to the US could be imperilled.

According to the newspaper, the Association of European Airlines, which represents 31 carriers, told US authorities that there is "no international legal foundation" to support the memorandum's far-reaching requests.

Brussels is pushing EU member states to avoid individual deals with the US on the proposed regulations to avoid weakening the EU's ability to negotiate a Europe-wide compromise on the memorandum. However, the Guardian reports that the Czech Republic and Greece may be close to reaching independent deals with Washington. Both nations are among the 12 EU member states whose citizens need visas to travel to America, where there are large Czech and Greek diasporas. The prospect of visa-free travel to the US for their citizens may outweigh pleas for solidarity from their EU partners.

"There is a process of consultation and coordination under way," Jonathon Faull, a senior European commission official involved in the negotiations, told the Guardian.

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