In Other Important News.

To those of you, gentle readers, who have only recently discovered afoe, it may be interesting to find out that we’re not usually an – almost – single issue blog. Quite to the contrary. However, one unfortunate consequence of having only limited resources is the obligation to choose how to use them. When we chose to make Ukraine a priority, it was unavoidable to write less about other important issues.

Yet there is one thing in particular that I would like to mention: Europe may have stood up for citizen rights in Ukraine, yet at home, things do not always look as brightly. According to a report by statewatch.org, the Council of the European Union has asked the European Parliament to “use its urgency procedure to rush through the measure on mandatory fingerprinting and biometric passports [(draft as pdf)] for all EU citizens at its plenary session [this] week (1-2 December).”

Under the urgency procedure, there will be no real floor debate, which might be useful given that the Parliament’s Committee on Citizens’s Freedom and Rights has agreed to an old version of the proposal – mandatory facial images and optional fingerprinting. In the new proposal both are mandatory.

As usual with attempts to reduce civil liberties and informational self-determination, the US – specifically the visa waiver agreement under the US visit programme – is the scapegoat used by the proponents. I am certainly no fan of a measure that leads to my photo and fingerprints being kept at the disposal of all governmental agencies for decades to come, but this time, it seems, the US are innocent, as they, again according to statewatch.org, do not demand fingerprints in biometric passports to uphold the visa waiver agreement.

Interestingly, even the original report, the one accepted by the EP’s Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, was of questionable legality, as Article 18 (3) of the Nice Treaty expressly denies the EU the legal initiative in matters relating to “passports, identity cards, residence permits or any other such document or to provisions on social security or social protection.”

I’m no expert, but I suppose such a questionable legal basis for a measure of such potential social impact may well be a good thing, as it clearly raises the chances of a timely court challenge.

3 thoughts on “In Other Important News.

  1. No issues here. I’ve appreciated the detail you’ve given this very important event (it’s big enough so that you sideline your regular stuff), and that’s OK… more than that…better, because it’s AS IT SHOULD BE. Blogging can always switch back quickly (few outlets can match your rate of change). The resources you provide here are current, fresh and without a great deal of personnal opinions…it’s happening so fast. I think less pontificating and more detailing of facts lends itself to good reporting. I’ve enjoyed many blogs (left or right), but I appreciate the detail you give a current, on-going issue. Thank you.

  2. Speaking of other important news, there will be a plebiscite this weekend here in Hungary that could potentially destabilize the region.

    The vote is about two issues: the less contentious is about barring the privatisation of hospitals, the troubling one is about double citizenship. Signatures for the former were collected by a far-left (post-communist) party, for the latter by the far-right-tending World Association Of Hungarians – but both themes were seized upon by the recklessly populist right-wing main opposition party, FIDESZ-MPP, while governing parties proved inept or even cowardy in confronting it.

    The double citizenship issue is not the same as in Germany: it is not about foreign citizens living in Hungary, but ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary. Significant Hungarian ethnic minorities live on territories that belonged to Austria-Hungary before 1919 – above all, in Southwestern Slovakia an in Transsylvania.

    There is already nationalist conflict with parties (and people) of majority populations. This would be greatly enhanced: an extra-territorial constituency will increase both fears of border change demands from Hungary and far-right demands that Hungarians ‘move home’ to Hungary; money paid by the Hungarian state for its extraterritorial citizens would give birth to envy, and Hungarian minorities themselves could be further radicalised.

    Furthermore, the right-wing parties in Hungary most probably support this not out of any misguided concern for the survival of ethnic Hungarian communities outside Hungary, but in hopes of these ethnic Hungarians voting for them in future elections, best if they even move from their ancestral areas to present-day Hungary.

    Unfortunately, a few years ago plebiscite law was changed thus that if the “Yes” or “No” vote gets 25% of all eligible voters, the vote is valid even if participation is below 50%. And since the “Yes” camp on double citizenship is almost certainly more than 25%, while the governing parties failed to mobilise for a “No”, it will probably be passed.

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