"As we face the threat of mass murder we have to accept that the rights of the individual that we enjoy must, and will be, balanced with the collective right of security and the protection of life and limb that our citizens demand." - JOHN REID, THE HOME SECRETARY
Story in full BIOMETRIC testing is set to be introduced at European airports under plans for stringent new security measures revealed yesterday in the wake of last week's alleged terror plot.
Passengers would have their fingerprint or iris scanned under the measures proposed by EU interior ministers, which would also use passenger profiling to try to identify potential terrorists.
The move to beef up relaxed security procedures in Europe came as John Reid, the Home Secretary, warned that human rights would have to be balanced against the threat from terrorism and that the current terror threat was Europe-wide and needed to be tackled on an international level.
The EU minister in charge of justice, Franco Frattini, said ministers were looking at the "positive profiling" of passengers, carried out well in advance of their flights, based on "biometric identifiers" such as iris scans or fingerprints.
However, both he and Mr Reid stressed that there were no plans for profiling based on passengers' ethnic origins. Rather, the profiling would be drawn from biometric information.
This would actually speed up airport security procedures, he argued.
But the scheme could also pave the way for an EU-wide database, provoking outrage from privacy rights campaigners last night.
The plan to extend biometric procedures - already enforced in the United States, Canada and Australia - to European airports was revealed after an informal meeting of EU interior ministers in London yesterday.
Other measures agreed include a commitment to stamping out radicalism by stricter policing of the internet, replacing extremism with a "European" model of Islam, a 250 million research project into liquid explosives and a meeting of security services across Europe this month.
The details emerged after ministers from the current Finnish EU presidency, as well as future EU presidencies Germany, France, Portugal and Slovenia, were briefed along with Mr Reid and Mr Frattini yesterday by Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the MI5 director general, and Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, the head of special operations at Scotland Yard.
Responding to the plans, Phil Booth, the national co-ordinator of NO2ID, a UK campaign group which lobbies against a centralised biometrics database, said the biometric scheme could not work unless Europe had the fingerprint of every international terrorist on record.
"If [interior ministers] do not have that, then what they are proposing is the construction of the largest haystack of all time to find a few needles," he said.
"This magical thinking about biometrics identifying terrorists is plainly crazy. What is more worrying is that John Reid is grandstanding and using an alleged incident to conflate our security and our freedom."
Mr Booth added that biometrics could also be used for de facto racial profiling of passengers: "Because it is a measure of the body, biometrics will often identify people's ethnic origin."
Other proposals revealed by Mr Frattini included the training of imams at EU level after concerns that extremists were taking over mosques, while radicalisation across schools and prisons would also come under closer scrutiny.
"We do want a European Islam and that is very important not only to show to the Muslim communities that we fully respect other religions ... but we also want [them to] respect national laws, European laws and fundamental rights - first of all the right to life," he said.
The bloc will look into a suggestion by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, to set up counter-terrorism expert teams at EU level ready to help countries if needed, he said.
Meanwhile, a separate 250 million fund was announced to help to research and detect liquid explosives.
Mr Frattini said that he would make proposals in coming days on the detection of explosives.
Yesterday, Mr Reid said Europe would not allow terrorists to undermine the "common European values that bind our societies together".
The proponents of terror "would abuse our open societies, would misuse our freedoms and adapt the latest technology to their evil intent and have no regard for human life or for human rights".
"As we face the threat of mass murder, we have to accept that the rights of the individual that we enjoy must, and will be, balanced with the collective right of security and the protection of life and limb that our citizens demand," he added.
Meanwhile, a YouGov poll out today reveals that more than half of people in the UK questioned wanted a "more aggressive" foreign policy. And 55 per cent supported passenger profiling at airports.