EU to tighten visa and passport security
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS
EU citizens will have their fingerprints stamped on their passports
or undergo an iris scan as from next year, under proposals to be
drawn up by the European Commission.
These measures partly stem due to a US law enacted in 2002, which
will start demanding visas from EU citizens from 26 October 2004
if they do not have biometric information (fingerprints, iris scans
or DNA) on their passports.
US fight against terrorism
The US will be using this biometric information in addition to existing
screening processes that identify potential terrorists or criminals.
Since March 2003, US authorities have had access to most European
airline passenger databases, where EU passengers are screened before
they land on US soil.
The European Commission, which will present its proposals on the
issue next month, stressed that these measures will not lead to
a harmonised EU passport, but will only introduce similar security
"The EU will not only upgrade its passports but also meet
the deadline set by the US," the Commission spokesperson for
Justice and Home Affairs told EUobserver.
The EU is also planning to introduce biometric data on visas and
residence permits of third country nationals residing in the EU
from next year, as a means to counter illegal immigration.
Citizens kept in the dark
Although EU heads of state and governments meeting in Greece last
week gave the green light for such plans, so far there has not been
any public consultation.
"The adoption of this decision for the wholesale surveillance
of peoples' movements by the EU Council has been taken without any
public consultation or debate in parliaments. The EU Council cannot
legislate but its decisions are routinely translated into EU law
- it is a totally undemocratic procedure," Tony Bunyan, editor
of Statewatch, a civil liberties organisation said.
Mr Bunyan said that the aim of these measures will be to record
the people's movements and sees it is a very poor way of countering
terrorism. He is also concerned about the level of information which
could be stored and who would be able to access such information.
"What information is going to be held? We need to have a proper
debate on this", Mr Bunyan told EUobserver.
EU ministers are expected to discuss the Commission's proposal
to include biometric information on visas and passports in an informal
Justice and Home affairs meeting in September.
The Commission's proposal to extend this system on EU passports
is expected at the end of this year.
Go to the