Statewatch article: RefNo# 26103
EU: Compulsory fingerprinting for all passports
Statewatch News Online, October 2004
- EU to back demand by Italy, Germany, France, Greece, Spain, Malta, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia for mandatory fingerprinting
- only Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia oppose move
- UK and Germany want to have a third biometric - "iris scans" too in addition to facial scans and fingerprints
- EU Data Protection Commissioners are: "fundamentally" opposed to the creation of an EU-wide database

The Council of Justice and Home Ministers (JHA Council) on Monday in Luxembourg (25 October) is expected to reverse the decision of the JHA Council on 8 June - which agreed that facial images were to be compulsory for all passports and travel documents and fingerprints optional - by making a second biometric identifier, fingerprints, mandatory. Draft Council Regulation on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States(doc no: 13490/04, 19.10.04, pdf)

This will mean that everyone of of the 450 million people with passports in the EU will have to queue up in "processing centres" and compulsorily have their fingerprints taken and have a "facial scan". The biometric data gathered will be stored on a "chip" embedded in the new passports. Personal details and the biometric data will be held on national databases and on a EU-wide database of European Register for issued passports - the latter will be on the Schengen Information System (SIS II) and be accessible by law enforcement agencies.

The Regulation will be sent to the European Parliament for "Opinion" under the "consultation" procedure - the parliament's Opinions are routinely ignored by the Council. The proposed legal basis of the measure (Title IV, Article 62.2a) has been questioned - see: Report from UK Parliament's Select Committee on European Scrutiny (link) and Statewatch's legal analysis. Moreover, the Council has failed to act on Article 67 of the Treaty of Amsterdam which said that after five years of entry into force (ie: 1 May 2004) it should take a decision to move all or part of Title IV over to "co-decision" (Article 251). If the Council had acted as it was obliged, and because it has yet to formally adopt this Draft Regulation, "co-decision" would have applied. Under co-decision the European Parliament and the Council have to agree on the text adopted. It may be that, should the parliament reject the measure, its only recourse will be to challenged its legal basis before the court.

Regulations are binding in their entirety on all 25 member states.

The European Commission published a Communication on biometric features in EU passports on 18 February 2004. Discussions in the Council's Working Parties led to a draft Regulation based on a mandatory biometric identifier - a facial image - and an optional second biometric - fingerprints. However, a "number of delegations" (governments) wanted the second biometric identifier (fingerprints) to be mandatory. This issue was put to the the high-level Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) (Presidency Note, 17.5.04) and SCIFA decided to maintain mandatory facial images and optional fingerprints - this was confirmed by the JHA Council on 8 June 2004.

The position remained the same with facial images being mandatory and fingerprints optional until 28 September when - at the meeting of the Visa Working Party:

"four delegations indicated that they were still of the opinion that the second identifier [fingerprints] should become mandatory"

These four governments who re-opened the question of mandatory fingerprinting were:

Italy
Germany
France
Greece

They wer

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