The EU's justice commissioner-designate said that she opposes the mandatory use of airport body scanners because of concerns about the privacy and safety of passengers. The official, Viviane Reding, said such scans would have to be voluntary, with officials guaranteeing that scanners pose no health hazard and agreeing to quickly destroy the images that are taken.
Under a newly revamped EU treaty, Reding could draft a law ruling out mandatory body scans at airports, but she did not say whether she plans to do that. If she did, such a draft would need to be approved by a majority of the 27 EU nations to become law. "Our citizens are not objects. They are human beings," said Reding, who has been nominated as the next EU justice commissioner.
In the U.S., 19 airports already use scanners, as do prisons and courthouses. Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport from where the would-be Christmas Day bomber flew to Detroit is buying 60 more body scanners. The EU justice commissioner job has gained significant powers under EU reforms that put a host of criminal and civil law issues to EU-wide decision-making. Earlier, they were the responsibility of individual governments, leaving Europe with a bewildering patchwork of legal rights, conditions and traditions.
At Tuesday's confirmation hearing, Reding said she would propose bills to boost the rights and privacy of EU nationals and make them uniform across the 27-nation bloc. The EU Parliament will vote Jan. 26 on Reding and the other 25 European Commissioners-designate. The bloc, which must cast one vote for the 26 candidates, is likely to approve them all.
She added that EU governments have improved security to deal with terrorism, but have not spent enough time protecting citizens' rights. "There can be no freedom without both security and justice," she said. "I believe that ... Europe's policies have too often focused only on security and neglected justice."
Reding said she wants privacy protection boosted in agreements that the EU signs with the United States and other countries. EU lawmakers have complained that the bloc's governments have put security above civil freedoms by handing personal bank or travel data to U.S. authorities without seeking privacy safeguards.