European Interest

Strengthening the security of ID cards in the EU

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The country code of the issuing member state will be indicated on the ID card inside an EU flag.

New rules on common security features for EU identity documents to reduce identity fraud were approved by European Parliament.

With at least 86 different versions of identity cards and 181 types of residence documents in circulation in the EU, the aim of the new rules is to deter the use of fraudulent documents that can also be used by criminals to enter the EU.

The updated rules, already agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators in February, will set new security standards for EU ID cards:

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.

ID cards that do not meet these requirements would stop being valid when they expire (i.e. would be renewed with the new format) or at the latest 10 years after the application of the new rules. ID cards that do not have a machine-readable zone, such as Greek ID cards, would expire 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 new rules were adopted by 335 to 269, 21 abstentions. The text still needs to be formally approved by 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.

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.

“The new rules will facilitate the free movement of people in the EU, reduce bureaucracy and reinforce EU’s internal security. It is important to note that they won’t allow for the creation of a database of biometric information. I’m also very happy about the addition of an EU flag on ID cards and the words “EU citizen” on residence documents,” said rapporteur Gérard Deprez (ALDE, BE).

S&Ds: Forcing EU citizens to give fingerprints for all new ID cards is wrong approach

S&D MEPs today voted against measures that will impose collection and storing of fingerprints of all European citizens on all new ID cards. The S&D Group believes that this decision should be left to member states, so a real debate could take place at national level.

“We are strongly in favour of updating standards on ID cards, to make them easier to use and harder to falsify. Throughout these negotiations we have engaged constructively and have managed to ensure key safeguards to protect citizen’s privacy. However, we could not support a final agreement pushed by the Council that made it mandatory for governments to collect and store fingerprints on all new ID cards. This should be a decision taken at national level, allowing a true debate over whether holding this personal information is necessary and proportionate. As always, we must be vigilant against simplistic and misleading arguments that giving our rights and freedoms away is the only way to keep us safe. This is a false and dangerous narrative,” said S&D MEP responsible for the update to the rules on ID cards, Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann.

“It is a shame that centre and right-wing groups blocked the attempt to allow a separate vote on this specific issue, as we supported the majority of these proposals. Our Group will always be the one fighting for real solutions to keep people safe, not presenting a false argument that we must severely limit individual liberty in the name of security,” she added.

ALDE: The new regulation as an important step forward to minimise document fraud

Liberal and Democrat MEPs regard the new regulation as an important step forward to minimise document fraud, identity theft and in the fight against terrorism. The new cards will have a standardised format with two biometric identifiers (the facial image and two fingerprints) and the EU flag as a new feature.  All these elements combined will facilitate the free movement of EU citizens, reduce administrative hassle and strengthen the internal security of the Union, say ALDE’s press release.

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