In this edition: •
- 7th EBF Seminar on ‘Privacy & Biometrics in Europe’, 15 June 2011 •
- Council Discussions regarding Schengen Area •
- GenKey and priv-ID agree Merger •
- i-Evo Biometric Readers To Sc-n Through Dirt And Even Latex Gloves •
- Russia and the European Union Discuss Short-term Visa-free Travel •
- Russia continues to block the EU’s monitoring mission from entering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. •
- EU Document, “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” Leaked •
Upcoming Events 7th EBF Seminar on ‘Privacy & Biometrics in Europe’ – The 7th EBF Seminar on ‘Biometrics & Privacy in Europe’ will take place on 15 June 2011 in the Leopold Hotel in Brussels. Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor and Sophie Int’ Veld, MEP, ALDE will address the event. The EBF seminar ‘Biometrics and Privacy in Europe’ will focus on the privacy aspects of large scale biometric deployments (e.g. public administrations) as well as the potential of biometrics to enhance privacy while still providing the benefits that biometrics genuinly can offer regarding security, convenience and efficiency. The principle of Privacy by Design and its relevance to the use of biometrics for public and commercial applications will be analysed. The current development in European member states regarding the capturing and storage of biometric data from citizens will be discussed. Also new privacy enhancing technologies and biometric modalities, such as vein pattern recognition, biometric encryption and secure network design, will be presented. Click here for the preliminary agenda. more Attendees fees are €225 for EBF members and €325 for non-EBF members. Please register here
Council Discussions regarding Schengen Area EU interior ministers have given their backing to a proposal that would allow countries in the Schengen area to reintroduce national border controls in exceptional circumstances. At a meeting in Brussels on May 12, the ministers from the 27-member European Union agreed to preserve free movement within Schengen. But reports said some 15 ministers supported the idea – floated by the European Commission the previous week – of reintroducing internal controls as a temporary measure to deal with a sudden influx of migrants. The EU commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, said at a press conference that border controls could only be reinstated temporarily and as a very last resort, adding that there was a general consensus about this approach among member states. “There was a general agreement today that Schengen needs to be preserved. We are not going to weaken Schengen in any way,” Malmstrom said. “This was a unanimous, very strong statement by member states, and I think you’ve heard [such statements] being repeated in many press conferences. But there might be a need to clarify the criteria when certain exceptional circumstances could occur.” Malmstrom admitted, however, that question marks remain over exactly when border controls can be reinstated and whether the EU Commission should be the final arbiter in such a situation, noting that “some member states have other views on the decision of the criteria.” It is believed that Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic have expressed doubts that the EU should decide over national borders. Other member states have indicated that they want more information on how such a border mechanism would work while discussions on the proposal are expected to continue in the run-up to the EU summit on 24 June. Talk about Schengen and its internal borders were triggered in April, when France set up checks on its border with Italy, preventing refugees from Tunisia from entering. Italy had issued temporary residence permits to many of the 25,000 migrants that have arrived in the country in recent months. On May 11, Denmark announced that in the next couple of weeks it would start making customs checks on its borders with Sweden and Germany, citing cross-border criminal activities. The European Commission responded on May 13 with an expression of concern from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to Denmark’s prime minister. In a letter to Lars Lekke Rasmussen, Barroso cited doubts about the legality of Copenhagen’s plan to strengthen border controls as part of a domestic political deal. Barroso said the plan “raises important doubts about whether the proposed measures…would be in line with Denmark’s obligations under European and international law.” The Schengen area includes 22 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Five EU members – Ireland, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus – are not in Schengen.
GenKey and priv-ID agree Merger GenKey and priv-ID have announced a merger agreement. The merged company will carry the GenKey name, and will be headquartered at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, with further offices in the US, Ghana and India. The new GenKey will be headed by the ex-CEO of priv-ID, Michiel van der Veen The merger is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2011. The former GenKey and priv-ID have both developed Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET) for biometrics resulting in BioCryptics and BioHASH solutions, respectively.
i-Evo Biometric Readers To Scan Through Dirt And Even Latex Gloves It has been announced that i-Evo biometric readers can scan through dirt, dust, water and even some latex gloves Lumidigm multispectral fingerprint sensors capture fingerprint data beneath the surface of the skin so that dryness or even damaged or worn fingers create no problems for reliable reads. Using multiple wavelengths of light and advanced polarization techniques to extract unique fingerprint characteristics from both the surface and subsurface of the skin, Lumidigm’s sensors provide results that are more consistent, more inclusive and more tamper resistant than conventional biometric readers in all types of environments. As a result, i-Evo biometric readers can scan through dirt, dust, high ambient light, water and even some latex gloves which is why fingerprint biometrics are now being used on construction sites by UK contractor Willmott Dixon, in medical labs, on heavy equipment and many other places heretofore considered not appropriate for the technology.
Russia and the European Union Discuss Short-term Visa-free Travel The bilateral agenda between Russia and the European Union has essentially been reduced to one item: short-term visa-free travel. Many Russian experts consider Moscow’s persistence to be mainly a populist gesture. Getting a multiple-entry Schengen visa today is no problem for businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians. The current visa facilitation agreement makes it easy to obtain visas, even multiple visas, for those involved in scientific and cultural exchanges, journalists and relatives of EU citizens. And holders of diplomatic passports can travel to Europe without a visa. So on the Russian side, the main group affected by visa policies is tourists who choose to go abroad for their annual vacations. The mood in Brussels, however, is not in favour of visa-free travel for Russians, and it is partially a matter of bad luck and bad timing. Russia is not a big tourist destination for most Europeans, so visa-free tourist travel is not a major concern for EU negotiators. Then, the likelihood of visa-free travel between Russia and Europe was diminished by the opening of Schengen zone borders for the holders of biometric passports from Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia (late 2009) and then Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania (late 2010). A large number of people migrated to Europe after these policies were enacted. Guy Trouveroy, the Belgian ambassador to Russia, fed the fears that visa-free travel for Russia would lead to more migration when, in an interview with the Russian News Service in early April, he claimed that the main reason the EU is not interested in abolishing visas is that Europe is afraid of an influx of refugees from Russia’s problematic North Caucasus and Abkhazia, whose residents hold Russian passports although officially the EU considers them part of Georgia. Russia continues to block the EU’s monitoring mission from entering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The EU is reconsidering its funding strategies towards the southern neighbours, so as to respond to the democratic uprisings. With austerity budgets in almost all member states and the strong likelihood that EU’s next multi-annual budget will reflect that, the Georgian official admitted that prospects for more money for his region are dim. Ukraine has already started negotiations on a so-called roadmap for visa liberalisation, something Georgia is also trying to “catch up” with by the end of this year, their minister said. According to the Georgian official, his country is the only one in the region having put in place a “consolidated and integrated border management system” and has started issuing biometric passports – a precondition for being granted visa-free travel. Being small and having no land borders with the EU may also be considered advantages, he noted.
EU Document, “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” Leaked A draft document leaked by an official of the EU delegation in Skopje, meant for internal use only and to be completed by 9 May, examines the impact of visa liberalization on Macedonia. The draft document, provisionally entitled “Local Schengen Cooperation (LSC) Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2010-2011 Report”, gives an overview of activities carried out since visas were abolished in December 2009, and points out some of the challenges perceived to lie ahead for the EU in this area. (It is important to note that since it is a draft document, some items may be deleted, amended or expanded upon in the final version; direct quotes cited herein may thus not appear in the final version). The internal document notes that five LSC meetings (four in 2010 and one in 2011) “have been held since the entry into force of the Visa Code.” On December 19, 2009, visas were abolished for Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, meaning that any of their citizens having biometric passports could travel in Schengen countries without a visa for up to 90 days per six-month period (though they could not seek employment). Albania and Bosnia were granted similar privileges the next year, while Kosovo alone remains frozen out. Interestingly, while 16 EU member states have consular offices in Macedonia (Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom), “no representational arrangements are known to have been concluded between member states for the purpose of examining applications and issuing visa[s] on behalf of a member state not present in the country.” Thus, with no “external service providers” for application collections, the European Union Delegation has been tasked with coordinating local Schengen cooperation meetings, the report adds. The draft document goes on to describe the structure of LSE meetings in Macedonia. It notes that the meetings, regularly-held at the EUD headquarters and chaired by the EUD’s Head of the Political and JHA issues, Information and Communication section, are “generally well attended.” Given Macedonia’s small size, such meetings are never required outside of the capital, Skopje, it adds. In this regard, identifying which specific missions tend to fall into which category would be of use for any intelligence analysts trying to interpret the degree of text interventions – and motivation behind such actions, in order to better understand the relationship between the local missions and ministry-level decision-makers, and the motivations of each in depicting local scenarios for policy and sometimes personal goals. Significantly, the last LSC meeting (held on 3 March 2011) “was partly dedicated to the issue of the high flow of asylum-seekers from the country into Schengen states. Officials from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were invited to present the measures taken by local authorities to reverse this trend.” From the point of view of security, the most interesting detail to emerge from the draft document may well be the admission that “harmonising the list of supporting documents has not been assessed as a priority need in the context of visa free regime with only an insignificant number of non-biometric passport holders. So far, no steps have been taken towards preparing a harmonised list of supporting documents.” This report is based on information at time of publication.
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Upcoming Events Date Meeting Location
2-3 June Ascension Holiday – EU Institutions closed
6-9 June Plenary session of the European Parliament The agenda will be here
Strasbourg 8-9 June Council: Coreper I and Coreper II
Brussels 9-10 June Justice and Home Affairs Council
Brussels 13 June Pentecost Holiday – EU Institutions closed
16 June Council: Coreper I Brussels 16 June Transport Council
Brussels 17-18 June Council: Coreper II
Brussels 22-23 June Mini-Plenary session of the European Parliament The agenda will be here
Brussels 24 June European Council – heads of state and government meeting
Brussels 29 June Council: Coreper I and Coreper II
Brussels 1 July End of Hungarian Presidency of the EU Beginning of Polish Presidency
4-7 July Plenary session of the European Parliament The agenda will be here
Strasbourg 15 August Assumption Holiday – EU Institutions closed
12-15 September Plenary session of the European Parliament The agenda will be here
Strasbourg 1 & 2 December The 4th International Conference on ethical, social and privacy implications of biometrics and security technologies http://www.riseproject.eu
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