Law on Biometric Passports vetoed. What next?



On Friday President Yanukovych vetoed the Law on introducing biometric passports saying that it did not comply with the Constitution. The adoption of this law (in fact, the adoption of biometric passports – translator) was one of the key demands of the EU so the veto will be an obstacle to liberalization of the visa regime. In parliament they plan to make some corrections then submit it for repeat consideration.

The Law on Documents Confirming Identity and Citizenship of Ukraine was passed on 23 September. It envisaged the introduction of biometric cards for 20 types of documents, including internal passport [ID document] and passports for travelling outside Ukraine, as well as social benefit and pension documents, driving licences and others.

Going against the usual practice, President Yanukovych did not propose his own amendments to the law, but demanded that it be revoked as a whole. The President’s suggestion submitted to parliament contained not only legal criticism, but also stated that there are “daily appeals to the President from citizens outraged at the opportunity created for total control over their personal life.”

Refusal to introduce biometric passports blocks Ukraine’s implementation of the Visa Facilitation Acton Plan.  The President’s veto coincided with the arrival in Ukraine of an assessment mission from the EU which is now guaranteed to inform Brussels of Ukraine’s failure to implement the first stage of the Action Plan.

Experts endorse criticism of the draft law but do not agree on whether the law should have been vetoed as a whole. Volodymyr Yavorsky, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union says that the most expensive concept had been chosen with a very large number of documents, none of which would be cheap. He therefore believes that the draft law would be difficult to simply improve, with half of it needing to be changed.

The Head of the NGO Europe without Barriers, Irina Sushko believes on the contrary that the President could have submitted amendments to the law. She suggests that the rather specific nature of the President’s comments suggests that what was in question was a conflict of interests in the profitable area of issue of identification documents. At present it is most likely that all of the orders in this area would be received by the SSAPS Consortium  [the Single State Automated Passport System]

[There have been a number of articles in the Ukrainian media since the law was passed suggesting that the deal would be crippling for individual Ukrainians but highly lucrative for SSAPS, which is closely associated with member of the Party of the Regions faction in parliament, - translator]  Vasyl Hrytsak. Hrytsak has accused the Justice Ministry of bias in preparing the draft of the President’s veto.  The Ministry refused to comment.

At present it is unclear what the outcome of the conflict will be.

Volodymyr Yavorsky is convinced that in drawing up a new law biometric chips should only be inserted in documents for travel abroad, since the cost of preparing all the types of documents envisaged would be huge, entailing a massive database.

The report omits one other key concern which regards the safety of such information.  Databases in Ukraine can easily be hacked  with information then being sold on, for example, the Internet.

From a report at Komersant – Ukraine

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