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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 21 November 2012

Commission takes Belgium to Court for failing to issue biometric passports with fingerprints

More than three years after the deadline was set for issuing biometric passports with fingerprints, Belgium still fails to comply with this requirement. As a result, the Commission has today referred the country to the Court of Justice of the EU, requesting Belgium to speed-up the delivery of biometric passports containing the agreed security feature.

Secure travel documents, which the EU citizens can rely on, are one of the building blocks of the Schengen area – the common European area of free and secure movement. It is crucial that all Member States issue compliant passports if we are to guarantee the same level of protection against fraudulent use throughout the EU.

The harmonisation of security features and the integration of biometric identifiers is an important step towards more secure travel documents and better protection of EU citizens from fraud. With the entry into force of Regulation 2252/2004, Member States had until 28 August 2006 to ensure that all passports issued contain a chip with the holder's facial image and until 28 June 2009 to ensure that this chip also carries the holder's fingerprints.

Amongst the EU Member States that have to comply with this legislation, Belgium is the only one who does not currently issue biometric passports with fingerprints to all citizens.

Further to a reasoned opinion sent by the Commission on 30 September 2011, the Belgian authorities have provided clarifications on the timeline foreseen for equipping its authorities with adequate material to deliver passports with fingerprints.

While some steps have been made, full implementation of biometric passports containing the fingerprints of the holder is not foreseen before the autumn 2013.

The Commission has therefore decided to proceed with the infringement procedure and to refer Belgium to Court for having failed to take all the necessary measures to comply with EU law (article 258 TFEU).

Background

Council Regulation (EC) 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States of 13 December 2004 harmonizes the security features, including biometric identifiers, for passports and travel documents issued by EU Member States.

The Regulation is applicable to all EU Member States, except Ireland and the UK, as well as to the associated Schengen States (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

Useful Links

General infringement procedure MEMO/12/12

November infringement package decisions MEMO/12/876

Cecilia Malmström's website

Follow Commissioner Malmström on Twitter

DG Home Affairs website

Follow DG Home Affairs on Twitter

Contacts :

Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)

Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)


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