Biometric data to appear on EU passports
The EU is edging closer to introducing biometric information – digital photos and fingerprints - on visas and residence permits for third-country nationals, paving the way for this measure to be introduced on EU citizens' passports.
The Commission hopes an agreement on visas and residence permits for third-country nationals will be reached before the end of the year.
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These personal details will be stored on national and EU-wide databases and be accessible through the Visa Information System (VIS), which Statewatch, the Civil Liberties Watchdog says could be accessed by tens of thousands of officials.
"How long will it be before biometrics collected for travel documents will be used for other purposes?", Statewatch editor Tony Bunyan said.
Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino made it clear yesterday that biometric information will also be introduced in EU citizens' passports.
This controversial plan comes as the US has said it will start demanding visas from EU citizens from 26 October 2004 if they do not have biometric data on their passports.
"We are of course having talks with the US", Commissioner Vitorino told a press conference yesterday afternoon, saying that the most important issue was to have EU travelling documents that "are protected against any forgery and are secure".
However, Tony Bunyan said, "These proposals are yet another result of the 'war on terrorism' which show that the EU is just as keen as the US to introduce systems of mass surveillance which have much more to do with political and social control than fighting terrorism".