By allowing third country nationals to work for Norwegian airlines without performing proper background security checks on them Norway is exposing Europe to potential aviation security threats. Rather than an isolated case this widespread practice has been going on for a while. Third country nationals have been provided access to security restricted areas at the airport and aircraft during duty, without Norway having carried out security checks on them. How is that even possible in a country, where aviation is under European regulation? Here are the facts.
An investigation of the EFTA Surveillance Authority*, revealed that Norway is breaching the European Regulation (EU) No 2015/1998 by allowing 3rd country nationals to obtain crew ID card or an airport ID card without a background check. This check also includes the applicant's criminal records in all states, in which they have lived during the last 5 years. The reasons for including such checks are obvious - with such ID crews, ground personnel, technicians and others can move freely in safety and security critical areas, giving them access to various aircraft and industrial installations at the airport. Regulation on background checks is the same for all States in the EU & the European Economic Area, which Norway is part of. If the applicant does not pass the background check, that person cannot be granted that card. For example, you cannot provide access to a ground handler previously convicted for importation of drugs, or a cabin crew convicted for illegal possession of weapons.
Yet, Norway has been granting Crew ID & Airport ID cards to 3rd country nationals without carrying out adequate background checks. The country has waived the requirement for obtaining criminal for people employed in aviation. Among the airlines that could – and probably have already – benefited from this lax rule is Norwegian. The airline is widely reported to use third country nationals, especially on its long-haul flights.
In a letter to the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, the EFTA surveillance authority is warning Norway that its legislation does not meet the common EU basic standards for safeguarding civil aviation. But beyond the mere fact that it is illegal, this practice is highly problematic. It creates a major security loophole. Today's terrorists have proven they have willingness, capability and resources to strike anywhere, anytime. Aviation in general and airports in particular have been high-priority terrorist targets, with Brussels and Istanbul airports being the prime example of the past months. Exempting third country nationals from security checks constitutes a major weakness. It’s time for Norway’s Ministry of Transport and the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority put an end to this practice without delay. Ultimately: “Security is never better than its weakest link”.
* The EFTA Surveillance Authority monitors compliance with European Economic Area rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, enabling them to participate in the European internal market.