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, vary significantly across EU countries. This increases the risk of documents being falsified and of identity fraud, which are increasingly big problems in the EU.

Civil Liberties Committee MEPs propose tackling this issue by:

Setting common minimum security features across the EU for ID cards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO); additionally, the cards should be blue and contain the EU flag;

Making a facial image stored on a chip in the card mandatory for citizens’ ID cards; in addition, member states could include two fingerprints on the chip; strong safeguards would apply to the collection and use of this data;

Phasing out previous formats of ID cards within eight 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. The changes follow a similar approach to that taken already by the EU for the security features of passports.

Rapporteur Gérard Deprez (ALDE, BE) said: “The purpose of this proposal is not only to fight against document fraud but also, and above all, to facilitate the exercise of the right to move freely within the EU by making ID documents in the EU more reliable and more widely accepted. In addition to their national identity, citizens have what could be called a “European citizenship” that gives them protection and rights. That is why I proposed in my report to make all ID cards blue and to include the EU flag on cards.”

“The EPP Group has fought for more security for identity cards. There are more than 80 types of ID cards in Europe and more than 180 residency permit types. These documents are the most commonly falsified, both at our borders and inside our territory. 13 out of 28 EU countries do not include any biometric data of their holders. That means that stolen IDs issued in almost half of the EU Member States can be easily used by terrorists or criminals to enter the EU. By harmonising security standards, namely through chips and the inclusion of facial imaging and fingerprints, we will greatly reduce the possibility of identity theft,” said Carlos Coelho MEP, EPP Group Spokesman on the new EU rules.

In the last 6 years, around 40,000 IDs have been uncovered as fraudulent and thousands of children have disappeared.

Member States will have the possibility to issue IDs for children over 6 years old with biometric data on them. Carlos Coelho explained why: “In order to find missing children or prevent traffickers crossing borders with a missing child, we need to know their identity. For these security reasons, the EPP Group has made sure that biometrics can be collected from children as of 6 years old.”

The new rules also aim at ensuring that all Member States accept ID cards from other EU countries as a means of identification.

The draft report was approved by 32 to 7, with 3 abstentions. The committee also approved a mandate to start informal talks with the Council, which can start as soon as Parliament as a whole gives its green light.