Saturday, April 12, 2008

EUROPEANS MAY SOON LEARN WHETHER IT'S OKAY TO FLY WITH A TENNIS RACKET

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE Thanks to a dogged airline passenger, some zealous security guards and a three-year legal battle, Europe's travelers will soon find out whether a tennis racket really is a dangerous weapon. The fight waged by the Austrian passenger, who had been ordered from a plane before takeoff because of his sports equipment, forced the European Commission on Thursday to agree to publish a secret list of banned items for air passengers.

The commission's pledge followed unusually blunt criticism of EU aviation security laws from a senior legal adviser at the European Union's top court.

The case arose from an episode in September 2005, when Gottfried Heinrich was stopped at the security control of Vienna-Schwechat Airport because his carry-on baggage contained tennis rackets. . .

Thursday's opinion refers to the rackets as "allegedly prohibited items," leaving open the possibility that the tennis racket ban was an interpretation of a catch-all phrase.

EU legislation lays down minimum security standards but allows the national authorities to implement stricter policies at specific airports. That is why passengers in some locations are, for example, asked to remove their shoes, while in many airports they are not.

The criticism of the EU policy came in an opinion from an advocate general Eleanor Sharpston, a legal adviser to the European Court of Justice. . . The adviser said the error was so big that EU rules on aircraft security should be declared "non-existent."

While not the final word, in the majority of cases, judges of the court follow the advice of the advocate general. So closely was the case watched that written comments were submitted by the Czech, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish and Swedish governments.

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