EU agrees to put biometric data in passports
The European Union reached a provisional agreement yesterday to issue passports with biometric data such as fingerprints and digital photographs in the coming years, diplomats said.
Blank passports are stolen every year from EU states and big members Germany and Britain have pushed for the bloc to increase the security features of passports to combat illegal immigration and terrorism.
EU diplomats said justice and interior ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, reached an agreement but could not formalise it because of reservations from a few states including Austria and Finland. They also said a formal deal was expected soon.
Once the EU has reached a final agreement, member states will have to start issuing passports with digital photos within 18 months and include fingerprints within 36 months.
Despite the deal, the EU will fail to meet a US deadline of October, 2005, for travellers to have biometric data in their passports to enjoy visa-free trips to the United States.
Washington introduced the requirement to boost security after the September 11 hijacked airliner attacks on US cities.