Biometric passports law – upheld by the Romanian authorities

By EDRi · March 11, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Gesetz zu biometrischen Pässen – von den Rumänischen Behörden bestätigt |]

Macedonian: [Законот за биометриски пасоши поддржан од романските власти |,mk/]

The Emergency Government Ordinance introducing biometric passports in
Romania remains applicable as the Legal Commission of the Senate advised it
favourably on 3 March 2009 and the Romanian Appeal Court rejected on 18
February the appeal made by several NGOs for its suspension.

The ordinance had been resent on the 28 February to the Legal Commission by
the Romanian Senate after heavy debates and concerns. Besides the very hot
debate around the “malefic figure 666” allegedly occurring in the chip of
the passports, the discussions in the Senate addressed also concerns related
to the lack of a proper security system for the data stored for biometric

“If a hacker with a laptop passes by you and captures the frequency of your
passport chip, he can change you, in a few hours, from a criminal record
free person into a drug or weapon dealer for example” stated Georgian Pop,
deputy in the defence commission.

The ordinance has been heavily contested, the opponents arguing that it
breaches the rights provided by the Constitution of Romania, the right to
private life and the right to religion. It was also argued that the
Government had not announced this act publicly, with the intention to meet
EU requirements without taking into consideration the public opinion.

A big debate turned around the religious aspect of the matter. A lawyer at
the case opened by the NGOs stated that “the introduction of chips into
passports affects the right to religion because it changes the name given by
God into a figure” and the procedure affects human freedom by surveillance
and control measures.

Recently, the Saint Synod, the Romanian Orthodox Church highest board has
agreed with the introduction of the biometric passports, but required the
implementation of an alternative for those who do not wish to have biometric
passports with chips.

“As some people are reluctant towards the biometric passports, an
intervention will be made to the institutions of the Romanian State
(Presidency, Parliament, Government) with the request to adopt the necessary
measures to modify and complete the legislation in force by extending the
provisions regarding the emergency cases (temporary passport) and for cases
when, due to conscience or religious reasons, the person does not want an
electronic passport including biometric data” says the press release of the
Romanian Patriarchy.

The head of the General Division of passports Aurel-Vasile Sime stated that
figure 666 did not occur anywhere and that the passports would not be
biometric but electronic, including two biometric elements: face image and
fingerprints. He also added that these new passports would not be mandatory,
the Romanian citizens being able to choose temporary passports valid for one
year that do not include biometric elements.

Since the end of 2008 many protests have taken places in several cities in
the country against the introduction of electronic passports in Romania and
they continued even after the favourable advice of the Legal Commission of
the Senate and the rejection by the Bucharest Appeal Court of the NGOs
appeal. About 300 members from several protested on 7 March in front of the
Romanian Patriarchy. The participants stated that the measure meant all
Romanians are considered potential criminals and that was an attack to their
identity. They also protested against the lack of firmness from the Orthodox
Church in this matter.

Romania is one of the first country to introduce biometric passports that
include fingerprints, while even in the EU countries a strategy for the
personal data protection in this respect is still unclear.

Favourable advice for the EGO introducing electronic passports with
biometric identification elements (only in Romanian, 3.03.2009)

The senators decided to resend the ordinance on the introduction of
biometric passports to the Legal Commission (only in Romanian, 25.02.2009)

The Ordinance on biometric passports goes forward (Video) (only in Romanian,

The biometric passports advised by the defence commission of the Deputy
Chamber (only in Romanian, 10.02.2009);3891638

Saint Synod requires an alternative to the biometric passports (only in
Romanian, 28.02.2009)–cum-comentati_466017.html

The request regarding the suspension of the effects of the ordinance on the
introduction of biometric passports rejected by the court (only in Romanian,

EDRIgram: Romania: Protests against biometric passports (11.02.2009)