Legislative Initiative to improve the security of ID cards and residence documents of EU citizens and of their non-EU family members

In “Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs - LIBE”

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

According to the 2016 Annual report on intra-EU labour mobility, more than 15 million EU citizens reside in and more than 11 million work in a Member State other than their country of nationality. Every year over a billion people travel within the EU or cross its external borders.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. Such cards can be used by EU citizens as travel documents, both when travelling within the EU and also to enter the EU from non-EU countries. Moreover, Member States have agreements with a number of third countries allowing EU citizens to travel using their national identity cards. Such increased citizens' mobility, combined with a fragmented regulatory framework, make security of travel and identity documents key elements in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The European Commission stressed the need to prevent abuses and the threats to internal security arising from failings in document security for the first time its 2016 Communication on 'Enhancing security in a world of mobility: improved information exchange in the fight against terrorism and stronger external borders'. In December 2016, the Commission approved an Action Plan to strengthen the European response to travel document fraud. The Action Plan identified actions to address the issue of document security, including identity cards and residence documents, in the context of recent terrorist attacks in Europe. On 27 March 2017, the objectives of the Action Plan were endorsed by the Council.

The proposal for a regulation aims at strengthening the security in three domains: first, identification cards of EU citizens; second, registratin certificates issued to Union citizens residing for more than three months in a host Member State; third, residence cards issued to family members of Union citizens who are not nationals of a Member State.

The proposal for regulation contains five key points:

  1. National identity cards must meet minimum security features. These features draw on the specifications, set out by ICAO, are common to machine-readable travel documents and ensure global interoperability when these documents are verified using visual inspection and machine-readable means.
  2. Biometric data (namely fingerprints and facial images, stored on a chip in the card) are made mandatory for EU citizens' ID cards (older than 12 years) and non-EU family members' residence cards. Stronger safeguards on who can access the biometrics are included in the regulation.
  3. The proposal provides for a phasing out period of previous formats within five years. Cards that are less secure, as for instance not machine-readable cards, will be phased out within two years from the date of application of the Regulation. These phasing out periods allow the EU and its Member States to fill the existing security gap for identity cards as quickly as possible, while also taking into account interoperability requirements.
  4. Member States must designate contact points for the implementation of the Regulation. The Commission, for its part, will establish a detailed programme for monitoring the outputs, results and impacts of the regulation.
  5. A data protection framework with specific data protection safeguards is set out.

On 17 April 2018, the Commission put the regulation forward for adoption by the EU Parliament and Council. An online consultation of 8 weeks (18 April 2018 - 11 July 2018) was launched to gather feedback from stakeholders. On 24 May 2018 the European Parliament appointed the rapporteur for the file. The Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs and the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality of the European Parliament released their opinions on the proposal on, respectively: 12 September 2019 and 3 October 2018. On 7 December 2018, the report of the Committee on civil Liberties, Justice and Public Affairs was tabled for plenary. The committee recommended amendments to the Commission's proposal include the following topics:

  • Security standards/format/specifications: national identity cards issued by Member States to citizens of the Union shall be recognised as such by all Member States. Such cards shall function as both identity and travel documents and be recognised as such by all Member States.
  • Period of validity: identity cards should shall have a period of validity of ten years. Identity cards issued to minors may have a period of validity of five years. Where it is temporarily impossible to take fingerprints or a facial image, identity cards shall have a maximum period of validity of 3 months. In the event a Member State decides to take fingerprints, children under the age of 12 years may be exempt from the requirement to give fingerprints. Children under the age of 6 years shall be exempt from the requirement to give fingerprints.
  • Phasing out: the amended text stated that phasing out previous formats of ID cards shall be done within eight years; cards that are not machine-readable and thus less secure shall be phased out within five years.
  • Collection of biometric identifiers: the biometric identifiers shall be collected solely by qualified and duly authorised staff designated by the national authorities responsible for issuing identity cards or residence permit, for the sole purpose of being integrated into the highly secure storage medium.

On 27 February 2019, the Permanent Representative's Committee, following on interinstitutional negotiations, approved a draft overall compromise package. The European Parliament adopted the text, by 335 votes to 269, with 21 abstentions, in the plenary sitting of April 4 2019 and the Council adopted it on June 6.  The final act, which was signed on June 20, shall enter into force on August 1 2019 and shall apply from August 2 2021.


Author: Gianluca Sgueo, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/11/2019.