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.