May 3, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Europe: Brussels looking to introduce biometric identity cards in the next five years

All European identity cards should be fitted with an electronic chip in the next five years – a measure which the European Commission considers to be indispensable for security and border checks.

biometric system


Tuesday 17 April saw the European Commission highlight the security risks linked to current identity cards. What most Europeans carry around in their wallets is apparently the most regularly forged document and used to enter and move around illegally in the European Union. Older paper versions which are easy to copy and difficult to check came particularly under fire. Faced with this problematic gap in security and border checks, the Commission is suggesting including a chip on each identity card within the next five years, says French website Les Echos.


Biometric system based on fingerprints


This ambitious European Commission project will see the modernisation of European identity cards using similar measures to the ones already implemented to harmonise security levels on passports. It is a biometric system based on prints from two fingers along with a digital photo. The data would be stored on an electronic chip integrated into every identity card in the future.


Standardisation of security levels but no European card


The Commission also stated that it was a case of implementing a minimum security standard and not a European identity card. Each member state will therefore continue to handle the design and production of their own cards.

Equally, they said that access to the data would be subject to very strict regulations, with the Commission considering that the modernisation of the cards would enable electronic administration to be developed as well as making it easier for citizens travelling into and around Europe and for them to be checked.


End of paper identity cards planned in the next two years


This suggestion will be studied by the Parliament and the Council over the coming months but may then be implemented rapidly, with the first stage being the replacement of 80 million identity cards which are still in paper format – and thus impossible to check electronically – over the next two years. These old cards still primarily exist in France, Greece and Italy.

"For there to be effective security in the Union, no terrorist or criminal should be able to hide behind false identity papers," said Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration. "Minimum standards of security are required."

The other identity cards will be brought up to the new norms in the next five years, namely the cards for anyone over 12 and also residence permits for family members from other countries. The reform will not apply however to countries which do not have identity cards.


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