Government approves more powers for country’s intelligence, tighter security at Prague’s international airport

Prague’s international airport, photo: CzechTourism

The Czech government on Monday approved measures which will give the country’s intelligence service greater powers in fighting terrorism and organized crime. It also released more money to equip Prague’s international airport with a face recognition system and other state-of-the-art security technology.

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: Filip Jandourek
Security issues topped the agenda of Monday’s cabinet meeting and although Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stressed that the planned changes had been in the pipeline for some time he admitted that the terrorist attacks in Paris had hastened their approval.

“The National Security Council has come to the conclusion that it is essential to bring the security system at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport up to modern security standards. The government has released 154 million crowns for the purchase of the most modern security systems, including the face recognition system already used at other European airports for recognizing passengers.”

Prague’s international airport, photo: CzechTourism
The face recognition system should be in place by the end of 2016 and other changes include upgrading and linking up security data bases and closer cooperation with foreign intelligence services. The premises of the airport will be more closely guarded and similar changes await the country’s smaller international airports in Karlovy Vary, Pardubice, Brno and Ostrava.

The government also earmarked an extra sixty million crowns for the country’s Intelligence Service BIS which will in future have easier access to suspect bank accounts and phone numbers in the fight against international terrorism and organized crime. The service has said the money will go to strengthen its operational teams, increase the number of specialists and acquire state of the art security technology.

The proposed plan which was drafted in close cooperation with the National Security Council met with unanimous approval from all three coalition parties. Speaking on behalf of the Christian Democrats, Agriculture Minister Marian Jurecka said that in view of the increased risk of terrorist attacks on the Continent the said measures were inevitable.

Marián Jurečka, photo: Filip Jandourek
“Of course someone could perceive this as in invasion into people’s privacy, but if we are to handle the security risks effectively, we need to make certain information available. It is of course essential to keep an eye on who has access to this sensitive information within the BIS intelligence service.”

The government has already indicated that it also plans to introduce changes in the body which supervises the work of the intelligence service, bringing it under closer control.