The API Bureau on Tuesday 3 March had a meeting with the heads of the European Commission's security service. We discussed a number of security issues, mainly related to the access to the Berlaymont for journalists.
NEW 'WELCOME CENTER'
the fall of 2020 the new 'Welcome Center', that currently is being
constructed next to the entrance to the Berlaymont, will become
operational. Purpose of the Welcome Center is to better control the flow
of people entering the Berlaymont, and to perform all security checks
outside of the building itself. This among other things to limit
possible effects of explosives or other attacks on the Berlaymont. The
Welcome Center can be sealed off simply "by the push of a button".
All visitors – including journalists – will have to use the Welcome Center to access the Berlaymont. Staff and already screened contractors will continue to use the current (staff) entrance.
Inside the Welcome Center will be a dedicated access line for accredited journalists, with more space at the X-ray machines.
At the outside of the Welcome Center will be four 'kiosks' where visitors and non-accredited journalists have to get temporary access badges.
When entering the Welcome Center journalists' bags and suitcases won't be manually checked anymore, as is now the case. The only check will be at the X-ray machines inside the Welcome Center.
To finally enter the Berlaymont, journalists will have to pass three revolving doors, which can be opened using the inter-institutional access badge.
A separate VIP-entrance will be located immediately next to the Welcome Center. It will be less easy for journalists to directly confront VIPs entering or exiting there. The VIP Corner will however remain.
Journalists/Visitors will leave the building via the existing (old) exit.
Before the Welcome Center becomes operational, API will be given the opportunity to test the access facilities.
Around the Berlaymont there will be several (concrete) barriers preventing vehicles possibly containing explosives from approaching the building too close.
CURRENT SECURITY CHECKS/PROCEDURES
API appreciates the dedicated press line, which is now in use every day from 11:30-13:00h (Midday), or before and during special media events outside of those hours.
The security service agrees that journalists should have priority over groups of visitors outside of these hours. The guards will be instructed lo allow this.
API notes that the X-ray machines are not set equally. Sometimes at one machine people have to take off their belts, watches or even shoes, while that's not necessary at the other, and vice-versa. This happens randomly. The security service will look into this. But they note that the X-ray machines are set to perform random checks (for instance, every fifth or tenth visitor will be checked more strictly). This is to prevent that the checks for the security guards become too routinely.
When journalists go to other Commission buildings than the Berlaymont, they have access using their inter-institutional badge, although most of the time they will have to be picked up by their contact person there. The security guards however are not allowed to write down the names of the journalists. This will be made clear to them, again. This to protect journalist's sources.
Efforts are being made to better coordinate the access systems of Commission, Council and Parliament. In particular, the Parliament is considering how to synchronize its systems with those of Commission and Council.
For the time being the Commission will not introduce access restrictions to its buildings because of the Covid-19 problems, unlike the Parliament. However, all visits from groups coming from other countries will be temporarily put on hold.