EU backs biometric passports

Tuesday, 24 June 2003, 4:53 PM EST

European Union governments last week agreed to embed computer chips containing biometric data in passports.

The plans to create passports carrying information on a person's fingerprint or retinal scans are presented as a way to reduce counterfeiting and fraud. Biometric chips would also be implanted in visas issued to foreign nationals travelling to Europe.

The idea, backed by 140m in EU funding for a feasibility study, was put forward as part of a raft of measures designed to "co-ordinate the European Union's immigration policy" at a summit in Greece last week.

The US is the main driver for biometric passports, the International Herald Tribune reports.

A European Commission official told the paper that EU governments are bound by a timetable set out by the US government after September 11.

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