Czech Government Nods to Biometric Elements in Passports

PRAGUE -- The government approved the Interior Ministry's proposal, based on an EU directive, to introduce digital photos and finger prints in newly issued passports, at its night meeting.

The introduction of "biometric" elements is to raise the minimal security standards of European passports.

"The introduction of passports with biometric elements is also a condition the United States has set for the preservation, or introduction (in the case of the Czech Republic) of visa-free relations," the ministry said.

Passports should have digital photos by August 28, 2006, fingerprints by mid-2008. The EU directive does not define the method of clearance of persons on the border, it leaves the procedure up to member states.

"The Czech Republic does not count with checking biometric elements in passports on the border before entry into the Schengen area," says the ministry's report for the government.

"Once the Czech Republic is fully involved in Schengen cooperation, biometric elements will be controlled at airports which serve off-Schengen flights," the ministry writes.