Decision-making under Pressure: The Negotiation of the Biometric Passports Regulation in the Council
This paper accounts for the so-called Biometric Passports Regulation of the European Community. Formally adopted by the Council of the European Union (EU) in December of 2004, the Biometric Passports Regulation prescribes the compulsory biometric “enrollment” of all EU citizens applying for a new passport or passport renewal. Member States fully participating in the Schengen regime and Schengen-affiliated third countries like Norway are obliged to include two biometric identifiers into their citizens’ passports by the end of June 2009. Schengen-made “e-Passports” will contain a chip storing a facial scan of the passport holder and two of his or her fingerprints. The author employs both Rationalist and Institutionalist perspectives in order to explain why the Council of the EU unanimously endorsed a bill which, as far as the mandatory incorporation of fingerprints into EU citizens’ passports is concerned, goes beyond what was necessary for meeting U.S. and international requirements. Rationalists may interpret the final legislative outcome as a reflection of the political success of “first mover” strategies on the part of relatively powerful executive actors engaged in a Battle-of-the-Sexes game. From an Institutionalist point of view, on the other hand, the substantive profile of the Biometric Passports Regulation stems from the reproduction of police-specific standard operating procedures, the “consensus reflex” among the members of the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), and the recognitional character of decision-making processes under time pressure.
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