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Security of explosives

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Security of explosives

The Commission has identified a number of security measures for explosives, detonators, bomb-making equipment and firearms with the aim of ensuring the security of citizens by reducing and eliminating the possibility of their misuse. These measures concern the storage, transportation, production and detection of explosives, and are designed to encourage cooperation between the parties concerned, in particular industry, the Member States and Europol.


Communication of the Commission of 18 July 2005 on measures to ensure greater security of explosives, detonators, bomb-making equipment and firearms [COM(2005) 329 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The Commission Communication provides for the adoption of storage, transportation and traceability measures for explosives at all stages of the supply chain. The ultimate goal remains the fight against terrorism and, in particular, preventing explosives from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The Communication calls for greater coordination between the parties concerned: manufacturers of, and traders in, explosives, experts from Europol and SitCen, national experts from the Member States, the Commission and the Council Terrorism Working Party. The Commission is also considering setting up an expert group tasked with preparing an EU Plan to enhance the security of explosives and firearms.

The Communication concerns commercial explosives, homemade explosives and demilitarised explosives, which present a major risk since they are normally not marked. The measures proposed by the Commission concern several stages of the supply chain from production to commercialisation.

Storage of explosives

The Seveso II Directive regulates the storage of explosives, and in particular the security of establishments where dangerous substances are present. The Commission has decided to carry out an analysis of the consequences of possible intentional adversary acts, deliberate major accidents and measures to prevent them. It will also recommend that Member States take initiatives to improve the security of all companies and personnel responsible for or dealing with high-risk dangerous goods

Transportation of explosives and other dangerous goods (TDG)

In April 2004 the Commission adopted Decision 2004/388/EC, which harmonises the requisite information and procedures to be followed for the transfer of explosives between Member States. In this Communication, the Commission calls for:

  • it to be made easier to trace explosives and to check that their movement has been approved by the national authorities;
  • a policy to be developed on the security of the national supply chain in order to complement existing legislation in various areas of transport security (air, maritime and port security) and increase security for land transport.
  • awareness to be raised within the industry of security in the national supply chain;
  • checks to be made in coordination with the Aviation Security Committee (AVSEC) on the implementation of technical specifications and performance criteria of different families of detection equipment used at airports in the Member States.

Production, commercialisation and traceability of explosives

The harmonisation of the provisions relating to the placing on the market and supervision of explosives for civil uses is dealt with in Council Directive 93/15/EEC. In the light of the increased terrorist threat, the Commission is considering adopting new practice:

  • marking of explosives and detonators;
  • stronger security constraints for storage and transportation;
  • reporting of suspicious transactions.

The Commission has also suggested assessing the cost-benefit of marking explosives with an electromagnetic code.

As regards the trade in fertilisers, the Commission is considering amending Regulation (EC) No 2003/2003 so that ammonium nitrate fertiliser can be sold only to authorised persons and against proof that it will be used for solely agricultural purposes. The Commission also proposes exploring arrangements whereby traders in explosives can be required to report any suspicious transactions.

Detection of explosives and detonators

To facilitate detection of explosives, the Commission proposes:

  • making one marking substance or agent compulsory in the EU for all explosives;
  • setting up appropriate measures to make it compulsory to use detection devices in certain strategic locations (e.g. at airports);
  • conducting an extensive study of existing detection techniques in order to build legislative initiatives in the field.

The Commission calls for detonators to be made easier to detect. To reduce the risk of theft or non-detection of detonators, the Commission has asked the Joint Research Centre to come up with measures to enhance detectability.

Law enforcement cooperation in the field of explosives and fire-arms

The Commission emphasises that solutions must be found for the identified shortcomings in terms of human resources, techniques and materials used to detect, examine and neutralise improvised and non-conventional explosive devices within the EU. Europol, which manages a database on explosive devices used by terrorist and criminal organisations, should encourage European law enforcement services, and in particular their Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Units, and the Commission, to make use of it. The Commission also envisages the following measures:

  • drawing up an inventory of Member States' capabilities to facilitate capability assessment and coordination;
  • setting up a Network of Member State EOD Units, which could subsequently enlarge its powers to include exchanges of information on aspects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and transform itself into a Forensic Network.

Several initiatives have already been adopted with the aim of improving law enforcement cooperation in the fight against illicit firearms. Europol is currently looking into the possibility of tracing illicit firearms. For its part, the Commission is considering the possibility of laying down common standards for the reporting of seized or recovered firearms used for crime, or firearms that have been diverted, lost or stolen.

The Commission will present a proposal for a Council regulation on an import/export licensing system for firearms by 2007. This regulation will incorporate Article 10 of the UN Protocol on the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts, components and ammunition into Community law. To that end, the Commission will also propose amendments to Directive 91/477/EEC.

Investing in research and technological development

A European Security Research Programme is to be launched in 2007. Meanwhile, under the 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, the Commission has launched a call for research proposals on nanotechnological approaches for improved security systems, including detectors for explosives.


Following the terrorist bombings in Madrid on 11 March 2004, the European Council, in its Declaration of 25 March 2004, recognised the need to starve terrorists of the tools of their trade. Ensuring public safety by reducing and eliminating the scope for misusing explosives and firearms has become a priority. Accordingly, the Hague Programme - "Strengthening freedom, security and justice in the EU" - calls on the Commission to put forward proposals to improve security in connection with the storage and transportation of explosives and to ensure the traceability of industrial and chemical precursors.

Last updated: 20.10.2005