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New Swiss passport will be "virtually unforgeable"

Switzerland hopes to introduce the new electronic passport in 2003

(Keystone)

The new Swiss passport, slated for introduction in 2003, will be almost impossible to forge, electronically coded and will conform to international standards.

The commission charged with overseeing the new passport has agreed by a majority of 16 to 4 to adopt the new form of identification. The Senate gave the green light to the change in November 2000, after a proposal from the government.

Information contained on the new passport will be stored in a centralised database, which will speed up the process of checking the authenticity of passports at points of entry into Switzerland.

However, fears have been raised about a possible threat to civil liberties. The Social Democratic party and the Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland say the proposal amounts to a police database.

The current passport dates back to 1958 and has one major drawback in the age of information technology: it cannot be read electronically.

The Swiss government has come under international pressure to modify the existing passport. The United States, in particular, has threatened to re-introduce compulsory visas for Swiss nationals if the familiar red passport was not updated.

swissinfo with agencies


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