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Europe, victim of the principle of precaution

Damages are expected to rise beyond those incurred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. 

The four day ban on air transport in Europe has disrupted life and the movement of several million people and has already cost more than one billion euros - it is also the cause of doubt with regard to this decision that finds more justification in the principle of precaution than precise technical analyses.

Indeed, no one could conceive of anything like this happening in the USA, Asia or elsewhere. 

Incidentally, the Russian President found the means to pass through the ashes and make it to Krakow. 

Airlines have been allowed to fly their planes empty to return undamaged to their hangars, and if the Icelandic volcano continues to explode we can be sure that the means will be found to resume commercial flights as much as logic seems to defy this decision.

Account will have to be given and the hazards, challenged by the pilots, about flying in these exceptional circumstances - which have already been experienced in the past - and the reasons for this decision will have to be justified since this has been motivated more through fear than science.

Is the real guilty party the famous principle of precaution, the symbol of fear that terrifies decision-makers and forces all responsibility onto the public powers who cannot do otherwise? 

If in the future we have to face increasingly unpredictable natural phenomena we shall have to fight against dramatic exaggerations of situations embodied by the principle of precaution. 

Many decisions will be made that will amplify this European trait of character - i.e., the fear of taking risks - which was so well summarised by Zaki Laidi in a CERI-Garnet-CNRS study dated February 2010. 

If Europe wants to succeed in the 21st century it has to learn how to manage risk better - in a responsible manner, together. It might even have to learn to like it and help other people to learn how to love it, too - from the individual entrepreneur to the minister, from the pilot to the air-traffic controller - i.e., give people the taste for taking individual responsibility. 

And to do this we must avoid any decisions that are too rapid, unjustified and even arbitrary.