Expatica news

Dutch news in brief, 26 October 2004

EU approves passports with fingerprints

European justice and interior ministers have decided that within three years all EU passports must include fingerprints, sources said Tuesday. The ministers had previously decided that digital photos must be included in EU passports within 18 months, RTL News reported. The changes come largely based on pressure from the US as it continues to clampdown on security. The US is demanding the EU introduce biometric passports because they are more difficult for terrorists and criminals to forge. It threatened to force EU nationals to obtain visas to enter the US if the biometric passports were not implemented. The Netherlands, Austria and Finland have backed the plan on the condition that their national parliaments approve or the passports are proven to be technically feasible. In principle, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland will also need to introduce biometric passports, but it is uncertain if the UK and Ireland will follow suit.

EU adopts uniform asylum seeker policy

A single uniform asylum procedure will be introduced within the European Union by 2010, allowing asylum-seekers from outside the union to receive the same residence status within all member states. EU justice and interior ministers reached agreement on the measure in Luxembourg on Tuesday, English-language news service NIS reported. The European Commission will investigate the feasibility of processing asylum applications in centres outside of the EU, said Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who chaired the meeting in Luxembourg. By 2010, an EU asylum bureau will be established to assist member states to exchange information on countries where asylum-seekers originate from and legislation must be ready to create a single EU asylum procedure.

Beatrix concerned about ‘European enthusiasm’

Enthusiasm for Europe has declined considerably since the idea of European unity was first mooted, Queen Beatrix said Tuesday in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The Dutch monarch said that while the European Union has become part of people’s everyday lives, little remains of the inspiration to unite Europe. She welcomed the entry of the 10 new EU member states and said she hoped that they would revitalise the union. But Queen Beatrix also warned that both the newcomers and the longer-term members would need to adjust to the new make-up. She also said a balance between the EU’s central powers and the delegation of authority to national governments will ensure the EU does not become an “all embracing bureaucracy” that “alienates” the people.

Healthcare competition ‘will drive costs up’

Some 40 health professionals have signed a Socialist Party-initiated statement claiming that market forces in the healthcare sector will hurt patients financially by driving up costs. Professors, doctors and hospital directors demanded that Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst revise plans to increase competition in the  healthcare system, Radio Netherlands reported Tuesday. The signatories said the plans do not take the needs of patients into account and that the pursuit of profits will iron out co-operation. The Dutch Parliament was to debate the plans on Tuesday night.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news