EU and US move to quell tensions over electronics ban

EU and US officials have moved to settle tensions over the proposed extension of a ban on electronic items in aircraft cabins to include European airports, after growing anxiety in Brussels over a lack of clarity from the US.

European commissioners for transport and home affairs met with Elaine Duke, the US deputy secretary of homeland security, on Wednesday, after Brussels wrote to the Trump administration to complain about a dearth of information from the US over the proposed ban.

A commission spokesperson said both sides exchanged information on “serious evolving threats to aviation security” during the meeting and also discussed “security enhancements” related to the laptop ban.

“The United States and the European Union reaffirmed their commitment to continue working closely together on aviation security generally, including meeting next week in Washington D.C. to further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel,” the commission said.

Under the proposed ban, passengers would be forbidden from carrying electronic items larger than a mobile phone into a plane cabin as hand luggage. Larger items will have to be checked. The ban is already in force at ten Middle Eastern airports from which planes fly to the US.

The meeting comes amid deep unease in Brussels over a lack of information from the US regarding the proposed extension of the ban. That unease has grown in recent days after reports that Trump shared sensitive information with Russian ambassador Sergey Lavrov.

European diplomats have drawn a sharp contrast between Mr Trump’s exchanges with Mr Lavrov and the failure of the US to brief Brussels on the proposed extension of the laptop ban on transatlantic flights from some European airports. “Europeans are expecting cooperative exchanges with US on this matter and to avoid US unilateral measures,” a European diplomat said.

“It is somewhat surprising though that intel was shared on this issue with Russian minister Lavrov, before being shared with ministers of allied countries,” the diplomat added.

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