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Proposal for new Swiss passport gets mixed response

A proposal to introduce a new Swiss passport in 2003 has been given the thumbs up from more than ten of Switzerland's 26 cantons as well as centre-right parties. However, fears have been raised about a possible threat to civil liberties.

This content was published on February 9, 2000 - 11:44

A proposal to introduce a new Swiss passport in 2003 has been given the thumbs up from more than ten of Switzerland's 26 cantons as well as centre-right parties. However, fears have been raised about a possible threat to civil liberties, in that police would have access to the central database of all passport details.

According to the proposal, the new passport would be smaller, more difficult to forge, and electronically coded. The justice ministry says passport photographs would also be electronically scanned making it impossible to fake the picture. All records would be made available to police in order to help them fight the passport-forgery racket.

However, the Social Democratic party and the Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland say this would effectively turn the proposed new system into a police database. Meanwhile, canton Solothurn says it is concerned that as children would also have their own passports under the proposal, confusion would arise if they travelled accompanied by adults with a different surname.

Under the proposed scheme, the passport would also be valid for ten years and would not be renewable.

The current passport format, which was introduced in 1985, is not compatible with international standards. The United States had threatened to re-introduce compulsory visas for Swiss nationals unless Switzerland introduced security features in its passports.

From staff and wire reports.

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