Civil Liberties Committee MEPs approved the deal reached with Council on common security features for EU identity documents to reduce identity fraud.

Ensuring that identity documents are tamper- and fraud-proof is a key element in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Currently the security features in ID cards, as well as residence documents issued to EU nationals and/or their family members, differ considerably across EU countries. This increases the risk of documents being falsified and of identity fraud, which are increasingly big problems in the EU.

Parliament and Council negotiators reached a preliminary agreement on the new rules on 9 February.

The negotiators agreed to:

Common minimum security features across the EU for ID cards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO); the country code of the member state issuing them will be indicated on the ID card inside an EU flag.

Making a facial image and two fingerprints stored on a chip in the card mandatory for citizens’ ID cards; children under the age of 6 years are always exempt from the requirement to give fingerprints and member states have the possibility of providing the exemption to children up to the age of 12.

Phasing out previous formats of ID cards within ten years; cards that are not machine-readable and thus less secure would be phased out within five years.

Only member states already issuing ID cards to their nationals would be affected by the new rules. The measures would not make it compulsory to own an ID card or oblige member states to introduce ID cards.

Civil Liberties MEPs backed the deal in a vote on Monday by 30 votes in favour, 20 against and 2 abstentions. The agreed text now needs to be formally approved by the Parliament as a whole and the Council before entering into force.

The new rules will become applicable two years after their publication. They will have to be reviewed by the Commission every six years with a particular focus on fundamental rights, the mobility of EU citizens and the effectiveness of biometric verification in ensuring the security of travel documents.

Currently, there are at least 86 different versions of identity cards and 181 types of residence documents in circulation in the EU. Of twenty-six EU member states that issue identity cards to their nationals, identity card ownership is compulsory in 15 member states. The total number of people detected with fraudulent documents, including ID cards, either entering or exiting the EU, or in transit, increased by around 16% from 2013 to 2015.