Chancellor says several airports to boost security shortly

Risto Berendson
, reporter
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Photo: Liis Treimann

Internal security chancellor at interior ministry, Erkki Koort thinks that the new security measures long resisted at European Commission level will finally be approved in wake of the terror in Brussels. 

- So what will now be changing in European security?

By what we know today, these events are local i.e. in Brussels only. But they have a great impact globally. Clearly, near-term travelling will be a bit more uncomfortable. The states will review their security measures and in the Europeans context it must definitely be reviewed whether the current police cooperation mechanism is sufficient to be better prepared for things like this. This time, the attacks indeed happened on Belgian soil and in high likelihood by Belgian own inhabitants. But the fact is that from now on European cooperation and info exchange must get better.

- What will the travelling discomforts be? In airports, security checks at entry, before check-in?

It may mean that. Near term, several airports will surely boost their security level. In states bordering with Belgium, this will definitely be the case and some have already done it. Paris, for instance. Yes, it may mean security check before check-in.

- Lists of passengers are being checked anyway, as things stand.

Yes, this is PNR project and is at varying levels of application in the states.

- What does the project contain?

Passenger name record. They are seeking patterns by which to spot the potential criminals amid passengers and, naturally, wanted individuals attempting to hide among passengers. The fact is that we must wait until specific details emerge but the current methods of collecting information must probably be reviewed.

- While airport security is one thing, the subway explosion is just as serious a topic. Compared to airports, the subway stations in the world are more by the thousands i.e. an all-encompassing security will never be. Can’t have a security gate at end of every street complete with policemen. If a terrorist can’t get into an airport, he will go to a shopping mall or a kindergarten. The list of potential targets is endless …

Of course. But it pays to look at the fact that in Belgium or in that region there were no suck attacks for a long time. I.e. the terrorist organisations operating in earlier decades were either cleft or the people grew old and were no longer committing acts of terror.

When looking at the reason why it was triggered again, part of the reason is clearly in the Middle-Eastern problem in Syria. After the appearance of the topic of the Syrian foreign fighters, the creation of the Islamic State and radicalisation, the problem deepened substantially. At one point it was decided not to deal with the Syrian conflict, and this is the consequence with which we now are having to deal.

- They say that, under this pretext, security agencies want to gain ever greater control over people. They are speaking about databases of hotel visitors etc. What are the measures supposed to reproduce security?

In Europe, there is this large scale debate between two schools. The options are to either protect people or to protect data. The fact is that many activities are omitted or are done in an insufficient manner because we have turned data protection into an orthodox dogma. But it no longer makes sense to protect data when the person is no more. Data protection is needed, no doubt, but first of all we need to protect people.

- So for security agencies this here allows to get a lot done …

Broadly, yes, but we have long been talking about fixing cross-usage of databases in Europe at long last. The current European level is that data is entered into various databases but in reality these systems are not communicating among themselves. You cannot get the information if you seek for it in the wrong database. This is totally stupid but this is what it’s like today.

- The weakness of cross-usage may the degree to which France or Belgium, for instance, want someone in Estonia to see their data.  

But to this I say: they themselves would surely like to look at our information. The fact is that the entire information is never put into such databases. But you at least get a lead from there. That with this person these things should be checked somewhere. This might be a solution. Central databases never hold as much information as national databases. This is not one-on-one.

- With which databases are they speaking of cross-usage first and foremost?

Like the Schengen info system, the firearms info system. Eurodac, where they collect all fingerprints of asylum seekers. Wherever in Europe they seek for asylum, these data will go up there. This will exclude a situation where an individual asking for asylum in Latvia will later do that also in Estonia. This must be immediately visible in the system.

- What has the cross-usage been hindered by?

There’s no capability problem. The problem is in the pan-European political will and in the European Commission. The Tallinn-located European IT agency could guarantee such capacity but there’s no decision to get it done. It’s long been talked about, but there’s no decision.

- Now the events were literally brought home to the decision makers. Usually, the negative attitude in decision makers changes with personal experience.

That’s the way it is. We need to do everything for such attitudes to change. It’s not a matter of whether but when the next acts of terror take place, at to which compromises the society is ready in order to feel safe.