CJEU: Including fingerprints in passports is lawful

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

Mr Schwarz applied to the Stadt Bochum (city of Bochum, Germany) for a passport, but refused at that time to have his fingerprints taken. After the city rejected his application, Mr Schwarz brought an action before the Verwaltungsgericht Gelsenkirchen (Administrative Court, Gelsenkirchen, Germany) in which he requested that the city be ordered to issue him with a passport without taking his fingerprints. Regulation No 2252/2004 provides that passports are to include a highly secure storage medium which must contain, besides a facial image, two fingerprints. Those fingerprints may be used only for verifying the authenticity of a passport and the identity of its holder.

In that context, the Administrative Court Gelsenkirchen sought to establish whether the regulation was valid, particularly in light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in so far as it obliges any person applying for a passport to provide fingerprints and provides for those fingerprints to be stored in that passport.

The Court of Justice answered that question in the affirmative: Although the taking and storing of fingerprints in passports constitutes an infringement of the rights to respect for private life and the protection of personal data, those measures are in any event justified by the aim of protecting against any fraudulent use of passports. They are intended to prevent both the falsification of passports and the fraudulent use thereof and do not go beyond what is necessary to achieve these aims.

Furthermore, the Court found that the regulation was adopted on an appropriate legal basis and that the procedure leading to the adoption of the measures applicable in the present case was not vitiated by any defect, since the Parliament was fully involved in that procedure in its role as co-legislator.

Source: CJEU press release 135/13 of Oct. 17, 2013

Full text of judgement of Oct. 17, 2013 and other documents in case C-291/12 - Michael Schwarz v Stadt Bochum available here>>.

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