The Council of the European Union has agreed to a proposal that would see strengthened security of identity cards of EU citizens and their permanent resident non-EU family members through the introduction of a new uniform format and other features.
Under the proposed new rules, identity cards will have to be produced in a uniform, credit card format, include a machine-readable zone, and follow the minimum security standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. They will also need to include a photo and two fingerprints of the cardholder, stored in a digital format, on a contactless chip.
Identity cards will have a maximum period of validity of 10 years. EU countries may issue ID cards with a longer validity for people aged 70 and above. If issued, ID cards for children under 12 will have a maximum period of validity of five years.
The Council of the EU said in a statement on November 14 that the “proposed new rules will improve the security of these documents by introducing minimum standards both for the information contained in them and for security features common to all member states that issue them”.
Herbert Kickl, Interior Minister of Austria – the country currently holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU – said: “Ensuring the security of identity documents is a vital tool in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. More secure documents make it harder to commit document fraud and identity theft”.
The negotiating mandate foresees that the new rules will enter into force two years after adoption, meaning that by this date all new documents issued must fulfil the new criteria.
In general, existing identity cards which do not meet the requirements will stop being valid 10 years after the date of application of the new rules or at their expiry, whichever is earlier. ID cards issued to citizens aged 70 or more will remain valid until their expiry, provided they meet the security standards and have a machine-readable zone.
The least secure cards which do not meet the minimum security standards or do not have a machine-readable zone will expire within five years.
The proposed rules also specify the minimum information to be contained in residence documents issued to EU citizens, and harmonise the format and other specifications of residence cards issued to non-EU members of families of EU citizens.
In recent years, common EU security standards have been introduced for identity and travel documents including passports, visas and residence permits for third country (meaning, non-EU) nationals.
However, under existing rules, the security levels of national ID cards and resident documents for EU citizens and their family members still vary significantly, increasing the risk of document fraud.
The new rules are set out in a draft regulation which was proposed by the European Commission in April 2018.
Following the November 14 decision, the Council Presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament once the latter has adopted its position.
(Photo, of a specimen Bulgarian identity card: Interior Ministry)