22nd Apr 2019

EU to tighten visa and passport security

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

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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 features.

"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.

Iris scanning in European passports being prepared

As early as 2005 traditional European passports could be replaced by a new set of identification measures including biometric information (fingerprints, iris scans or DNA). EU justice and home affairs ministers are expected to discuss the topic at an informal meeting in Rome next month.

Prison suicide rates in France highest in Europe

Suicide rates per 10,000 inmates in 2017 in France stood at 12.6, higher than any other European country. The latest figures are part of a much bigger report out Tuesday by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us