As terrorist attack threats become more frequent globally, Macedonia and the region employ anti-terrorist safety measures.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 26/11/12
A Macedonian police unit conducts an anti-terrorist exercise at the Ohrid airport. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
Facing a global threat of terrorist attacks means that Southeast European region must be prepared for every eventuality, experts said following a recent anti-terrorist exercise in Ohrid, Macedonia.
"What is happening in our neighbour [countries] tells us that we must be prepared for everything," Toni Jakimovski, a commander of the WAVE 2012 action, told SETimes.
More than 100 members of Macedonia's Internal Affairs Ministry participated in a three-day anti-terrorist exercise this month at Ohrid's St. Paul Airport. Among the participants was the special anti-terrorist police unit Tigers.
The police utilised the airport building and other facilities in the tactical exercise named WAVE 2012. This was the first "on the scene" large-scale anti-terrorist exercise in Macedonia.
The unit was tasked with dealing with a simulated crisis in which an airplane was hijacked by terrorists. The goal of the exercise was to improve the co-ordination and joint communications of all security structures responsible for handling security threats.
The simulation envisioned several phases during the exercise, beginning with the news that an airplane had been hijacked, to the practice of overcoming terrorists at various areas of the airport building and in the airplane.
"The goal was to show willingness to see all the anomalies in the execution of terrorist attack. The airports in Macedonia are safe," Jakimovski said.
He said that when it comes to anti-terrorism, the police force co-operates with all foreign offices and airports.
"The last inspection of airports in Skopje and Ohrid found that all measures of the International Civil Aviation Organisation are applied. We received a positive assessment of the overall civil aviation security system. In co-operation with the police, we work to improve airport security standards in the country," Liljana Gorgieva, spokesman of the civil aviation, agency told SETimes.
Tomislav Tuntev, professor of air traffic at Bitola State University, told SETimes that although Balkan airports are secure, more should be invested in new safety techniques and equipment that would raise the level of airport safety.
"Currently, all Balkan airports rank the same with their technical equipment in a case of a terrorist attack. Their improvements, however, depend on particular country's willingness to invest in new equipment. Authorities need to consider updating all security systems and a full security standards implementation that apply to all European airports," Tuntev said.
Zoran Doreski, former director of security at Macedonian airports, told SETimes that regional airports can handle smaller terrorist threats, but not sophisticated ones.
"Few regional airports enforce passenger double check system, that is, a double passenger control. The first control should be upon entering an airport, and then the obligatory scanner control, now at all airports. These controls are expensive. For the time, Balkan airports have a good control and detection system of terrorist devices," Doreski told SETimes.
"It is envisaged that all airports in the Balkans introduce the body scan by 2015 that would perform a complete passenger body scan," Doreski adds.
"We have a high level of technical and electronic protection via the 24 hour video surveillance, parametric fence, and terminal of all facilities and airport accesses, electronic control of transition from public zone to airport security-restricted areas, 100 percent X-ray review of registered baggage, cargo, cabin baggage and passengers," TAV Macedonia company, a subsidiary of TAV Airports Holding, which manages the Macedonia airports, told SETimes.
"Sarajevo international airport is implementing the same measures of protection as are many other European airports," Senad Milic, director of safety department at Sarajevo airport, told SETimes.
"Sarajevo security level is good. Few new x-ray devices-detectors for explosives are being implemented, with which we'll fully modernise security equipment. We began installing a detection system and wide surveillance, which will prevent unauthorised intrusion to the airport safety zone. Sarajevo airport also has modern equipment for passengers and luggage inspection," Milic said.
The Bulgarian government introduced greater security measures at airports after the attack in July this year at the Burgas airport. The measures include more strict checks of carry-on luggage, especially liquids.