EU ministers discuss recording personal data of all visitors to bloc
By Honor Mahony
EU justice ministers meeting over the weekend examined proposals that would require all visitors to the EU to have their personal details recorded upon entry to the 27-nation bloc.
The informal meeting, held in Slovenia, the current holder of the EU presidency, on Friday and Saturday, discussed obtaining finger prints, biometric and personal data from non-EU visitors to cut down on the risk of terrorists entering the Union.
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According to French daily Liberation, the project, spearheaded by EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini, aims to file the data of all those entering the EU by land, air or sea.
The information would be stored in a European database and modelled on the US system.
"We have to find a balance between security and the right to freedom of movement," said Mr Frattini.
His words come just weeks after the EU extended its borderless internal zone to cover a further nine member states.
The commissioner indicated that the database would allow authorities to know the date of entry of a person and whether they stayed or left.
"We cannot tolerate that people who arrive legally enter into illegality," said the commissioner, according to Liberation.
"Public opinion expects that a Europe of security be a Europe that protects them, which requires securing [Europe] against external risks," said French interior minister Michele Alliot-Marie
Mr Frattini is expected to unveil concrete proposals to his national counterparts at a formal meeting next month.
No divorce rules
Meanwhile, the same meeting saw member states unable to agree on common EU rules for divorces between couples coming from two different member states.
At the moment, divorce rules vary widely across the bloc from flexible rules in Nordic countries to Malta, where divorce is banned.
The European Commission has been seeking to set up rules to determine which country should have jurisdiction when a couple from different countries divorce. There are some 170,000 such cases each year.
However, Sweden blocked the proposal, fearing its liberal laws would be undermined.
"In Sweden, we always apply Swedish law on divorce," the country's justice minister, Beatrice Ask, said, according to the Reuters news agency.
"The right to divorce is fundamental to gender equality," she said, adding that applying other laws in the country would be a step backwards.
Malta, Ireland and the Netherlands also raised concerns about the proposal at the meeting, Reuters reports.