Greece wants more say on EU borders

Greece fought yesterday to maintain a stronger say in European Union decisions concerning immigration, asylum and policing of the Union’s external borders, in view of the anticipated abolition of member states’ right to veto such decisions. At a meeting in Luxembourg of justice ministers from the 25 EU member states, Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras called for the new process – during which unanimity will not be necessary for a decision to be reached – to involve a strong majority and for the final decision to be ratified by the European Parliament. Papaligouras said that, on matters such as immigration, asylum and Europe’s external borders, adoption of the new decision-making process should be staggered. The minister argued that Greece has a particular interest in the matter due to its geopolitical position and the need to protect its interests on sensitive matters concerning Greek national security. Meanwhile, EU interior ministers moved closer to adding digital fingerprints and photos to EU passports in an attempt to make them more secure, but will probably miss a US deadline. The 25 interior ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, were close to the needed unanimity on the plan, with lingering doubts from Austria and Finland expected to be cleared away in the next few days, diplomats said on customary condition of anonymity. The plan would see digital photos added to EU passports within 18 months and fingerprints within three years. That would miss a deadline set under a new US law, which requires foreigners entering the country to have at least one biometric identifier by Oct. 26, 2005. The EU last month asked Washington for more time to get the new documents ready. The deadline has already been extended by a year. So-called biometric features can reduce patterns of fingerprints, irises, voices and faces to mathematical algorithms that can be stored on a chip or machine-readable strip, making them harder to falsify. (Combined reports)