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Body scanners in Rome, Milan, Venice

Pilot scheme to start 'in 2-3 months'

08 January, 21:57
Body scanners in Rome, Milan, Venice

(ANSA) - Rome, January 7 - Full body scanners will be installed in three Italian airports for testing by spring, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni announced on Thursday. Speaking after a meeting of the Civil Aviation Authority ENAC in response to the failed Christmas Day bomb attack in the United States, Maroni said participants had given the proposal a green light. A pilot project involving ten scanners will be operational in Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa and Venice airports within two to three months, he said. The minister explained these airports had been chosen as they experience the greatest flow of international traffic. ''The entire government agrees that safety for air passengers must be placed above any other concern,'' said the minister, who attended the meeting along with aviation security experts. ''The right to life trumps every other issue''.

Transport Minister Altero Matteoli, who was also present at the meeting, added: ''Privacy is important but security is paramount''.

ENAC has not yet decided the type of scanners it will buy although Maroni has promised machines that generate body images blurred enough to avoid embarrassment.

The authority will meet again on January 21 to confirm the scanner model, ENAC chief, Vito Riggio, said after Thursday's gathering. ''We have a fund of two million euros available and the cost of each scanner is between 100 and 200,000 euros,'' he said, adding that the final outlay would depend on the model chosen. On that same day, Italy will formally raise the matter of body scanners with other European Union countries during a meeting of the bloc's interior ministers in Spain, Maroni said. Italy, the UK and the Netherlands have all announced plans to install the scanners at national airports but other member states are divided. Under current rules, the decision on whether to install body scanners at airports is a national one but Italy has been calling for a unified, Europe-wide approach to the issue. ''Even if the European Commission does not make body scanners obligatory, the Italian government is determined to win support from other countries for the Italian position,'' said Maroni. ''A policy of international cooperation is more essential than ever,'' commented Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in an interview with online daily Affari Italiani. ''It is appropriate that Europe meets to assess a possible line on the body scanners''.

Work on a European Commission proposal on body scanners was suspended in 2008, when the European Parliament tasked a committee of experts with examining the health and privacy implications. ''If there are no problems from a health, security or human rights point of view, the next European Commission could re-propose the installation of body scanners,'' Commission Vice-President and Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani, the former European transport commissioner,Y said on Thursday.

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