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European Union to Lift Liquid Ban by 2014

The European Union (E.U.) plans to phase out its ban on liquids in stages over the next few years, with the ban expected to be fully lifted by 2014. But while that sounds like good news for travelers, the proposal presents a host of logistical issues and has received a fair amount of criticism.

The Daily Mail says the ban will vanish in 2012, and actually characterizes this as a delay: “The ban on taking liquids of more than 100ml on board a plane was due to end in April, but European transport ministers are set to rule today that it should stay in place until at least 2012.”

The Guardian says different airports will lift the ban at different times, depending on how many travelers they serve, and that chaos is sure to ensue: “A ban on carrying liquids in hand luggage will be lifted in 2012 for airports handling more than 10 million passengers a year, with smaller airports waiting until 2014, according to sources close to European security officials. That would mean a family travelling from Stansted to Barcelona-Girona in Spain from 2012 would be able to carry as much drink, shampoo and perfume as they wanted on the outbound journey, but would have to dump or check in the liquids on the return leg.”

The Telegraph worries Britain may be left out if its government rejects the plans, as it seems poised to do: “The Government is to oppose plans to ease the 100 ml limit when European transport ministers meet in Luxembourg on Friday. However, while Britain can object to the plans and opt out, the Government cannot block them outright.”

Lastly, many here in the states are wondering why the E.U. gets its ban lifted while we don’t.

Clearly this last point is closest to home, but saying the E.U. will have its ban lifted while we keep cramming our liquids and gels into tiny bottles isn’t exactly true. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is in the process of rolling out new technology that would make the liquid ban unnecessary, and has been for some time. And even though the TSA announced last month (to much heavy sighing) that it would be at least another year before the ban could be eased here in the U.S., that still puts it at least on pace with the E.U., if not ahead. It’s quite possible that we’ll see the ban lifted before Europe does.

As for the issues in Europe, it should surprise no one that a large-scale security overhaul is a tedious process fraught with difficulties, and that pronouncements of target dates and plans would be met by skepticism. Behind all this is frustration with the inconvenience of the ban, but also a sense that the ban is overzealous and no longer necessary. In short, it’s time for the ban to go; and all the target dates, plans, and platitudes in the world mean nothing while the ban is in place.

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