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Document Ares(2017)4351808

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


Title of the initiative

Improve the security of ID cards and residence documents of EU citizens and of their non-EU family members

Lead DG – responsible unit

DG Justice and Consumers

Likely Type of initiative

Legislative ("hard") and/or non-legislative ("soft")

Indicative Planning

2nd quarter 2018

Additional Information


The Inception Impact Assessment is provided for information purposes only. It does not prejudge the final decision of the Commission on whether this initiative will be pursued or on its final content. All elements of the initiative described by the Inception Impact Assessment, including its timing, are subject to change.

A. Context, problem definition and subsidiarity check


In its Communication on security and mobility (COM(2016) 602 final), the Commission highlighted the need for quality and certainty in identity documents. In its Action Plan on document security of December 2016 (COM(2016) 790 final), the Commission considered measures to strengthen the European response to travel document fraud including on ID cards of all EU citizens and the residence documents of EU citizens and of their non-EU family members residing in another Member State.

In the EU Citizenship Report 2017 (COM(2017) 30 final), the Commission announced that it would finalise the study on EU policy options to improve the security of identity cards of all EU citizens, as well as the residence documents of mobile EU citizens and of their non-EU family members residing in another Member State. On the basis of that study, the Commission will evaluate the next steps, options and their impacts, by the end of 2017, in view of a possible legislative initiative in a subsequent stage.

Problem the initiative aims to tackle

Except for Denmark and the United Kingdom, all Member States issue national ID cards as the main proof of identity when accessing public or private services. All ID cards may also be used as intra-EU travel documents (and to enter the EU when returning from abroad) in line with the free movement acquis, and a number of third countries permit EU nationals to enter their territories using their ID cards. As ID cards are less bulky and usually cheaper, their ownership and use is much more prevalent than passports.

National ID cards are not standardised, and some Member States support more than one type. Only 13 Member States provide ID cards with biometrics, only 11 have contactless accessible cards, and most Member States only have equipment which reads the biometric information of their own national ID cards. FR, IT and EL issue cards which do not comply with the international minimum standard for machine readable travel documents set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO standard 9303).

ID cards which do not meet state-of-the art security and information requirements create a security gap, as they allow holders of such documents to enter the EU. At the same time such documents increase delays at borders because they complicate the identification and document authentication procedure, exposing citizens to the risk of being wrongly refused entry or passage. Failure to include accessible biometrics increases the risk of fraud and prevents Member States from achieving the efficiency, security and cost gains from eGates ("smart borders").

Difficulties in document recognition causes difficulties for citizens when using national ID cards as proof of identity to access basic social services (healthcare, childcare), and banking and other services in other Member States. Even where such ID cards are accepted, service providers experience increased processing times and costs.

Residence cards of mobile EU citizens are even more diverse than ID cards and this can create problems for citizens when accessing public and private services, and creates costs for citizens and public and private service providers. A specific issue are the residence cards issued to third-country nationals (TCN) family members of EU citizens, which are presented at borders when re-entering the EU as a visa waiver. The poor security features of those cards negatively impacts on border security and creates additional costs for citizens and the authorities.

Basis for EU intervention (legal basis and subsidiarity check)

Depending on the object and scope of the initiative, different legal bases can be envisaged.

Article 20 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) establishes Union citizenship and Article 21 refers to the right of free movement and provides for the possibility for the Union to act if action is necessary to facilitate the exercise of this right. The ordinary legislative procedure applies.

Article 77(3) TFEU provides that the Council may adopt provisions concerning passports, identity cards, residence permits or any other such document if action by the Union should prove necessary to facilitate the exercise of the right to move and reside freely (Article 20(2)(a) TFEU). The special legislative procedure applies in this case and unanimity in the Council is required.

The objectives of this initiative cannot be achieved at a national level. Member States cannot improve the current situation by acting alone, since the underlying problem is that mutual recognition of ID and residence documents is hampered. The current situation affects the possibility for EU citizens to fully enjoy their free movement rights.

B. Objectives and policy options

The main objective is to improve the security of ID and residence documents to address security gaps and reduce document fraud and costs to public and private service providers. This will be for the benefit of all EU citizens, and in particular of those residing in another EU Member State and their non-EU family members.

A range of policy options will be considered and adjusted as and where necessary in the run-up to a possible initiative. They will cover a number of sub-options.

Maintaining the status quo ("baseline scenario" – Policy option 1) would leave action to Member States and incrementally improve the security of ID and residence documents, since it can be assumed that Member States will step-by-step adjust to new technology when issuing such documents.

Policy option 2 (soft law) would look into EU level non-legislative measures, such as awareness raising measures, enhanced cooperation of Member States (by e.g. sharing best practices), EU-wide training, and a Single Point of Contact system which provides help ensuring that enquiries from other Member States regarding ID and residence documents are routed through the correct authority.

Policy option 3 (minimum harmonisation) would involve legislative action at the EU level and provide for the harmonisation of certain security features of ID and residence documents, including common security features compliant with international standards, while keeping flexibility for Member States how to achieve this. This would follow the approach taken for passports of EU citizens (Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 1 ).

Policy option 4 (maximum harmonisation) would go for full harmonisation at EU level of the format. This would follow the approach taken for residence permits of third country nationals (Council Regulation 1030/2002 as amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 380/2008 2 ).

Policy option 5 would go for an EU card with combined ID and residence status features, mirroring at EU level what certain Member States, have already established at national level. This would require full digitalisation of Member States administrations.

C. Preliminary assessment of expected impacts [max 20 lines]

Likely economic impacts

As regards the status quo (Policy option 1) the economic impact is being analysed for several issues: a) the costs to EU citizens and their family members incurred when their documents are examined or contested (delay at borders, refusal to board a plane, impaired access to services such as banking, etc.); b) the costs associated to fraud or forgery due to limited document security features; and c) the costs to private and public service providers and authorities due to administrative delays and increased processing times.

The economic impact of the other policy options will be compared to the baseline scenario. Depending on the option chosen, varying levels of cost would be incurred to introduce upgraded types of ID and residence documents. Authorities would need to be trained and procedures changed. The potential of the various policy options to reduce the cost to EU citizens and their family members will also be assessed.

Likely social impacts

All the policy option other than the baseline scenario have the potential to facilitate the daily lives of EU mobile citizens and their family members, frontier workers, students, tourists and other travellers. They could simplify and speed the access to basic public services, and many private services. More secure ID and residence cards with improved identification and authentication features would reduce fraud and other forms of crime and contribute to the fight against serious and organised crime, as well as terrorism.

Likely environmental impacts

Environmental impacts through the production of possibly new types of documents seem limited.

Likely impacts on fundamental rights

Any improvements derived from improving the security of ID and residence documents of the Member States will have a positive impact on freedom of movement and residence.

Any possible initiative will be in full compliance with data protection rules.

Likely impacts on simplification and/or administrative burden

Although a possible new EU framework will aim at improving the security of ID and residence documents, any change in administrative practices requires adaptation and training, and therefore may create additional burden in the short term.

For certain policy options the improvement to the security of ID and residence documents is expected to facilitate in the long term the work of public authorities in charge of checking ID and residence documents and increase their efficiency. This points to cost savings at the front line, and in administration. The harmonisation of security features of currently distinct documents may also lower the production cost, compared to producing different types of documents.

D. Evidence base, data collection and better regulation instruments

Impact assessment

An impact assessment is being prepared to support the preparation of this initiative and to inform the Commission's decision.

Evidence base and data collection

Information has been gathered through the requests from citizens addressed to the Commission, e.g. in the SOLVIT framework, the relevant elements of the consultation on EU citizenship, a Eurobarometer survey on citizenship rights that took place end 2015, feedback in the context of the REFIT platform as well as exchanges with key stakeholders.

The "Study to Support the Preparation of an Impact Assessment on EU Policy Initiatives on Residence and Identity Documents to Facilitate the Exercise of the Right of Free Movement" finalised in 2017 used a number of questionnaires which were answered by various stakeholders. It will be the main basis of the data analysis.

Other data sources, such as the study contracted by the European Parliament on "The Legal and Political Context for Setting Up a European Identity Document" are being taken into account. As this initiative covers new ground, evaluation of existing legislation was not considered relevant to the current process.

Consultation of citizens and stakeholders

To gather valuable information from citizens, businesses, public authorities and other stakeholders on their experience of the current documents, an EU-wide 12-week public consultation will run from 12 September to 5 December 2017 targeting the general public, mainly the citizens of the Union and their family members, but also associations and NGOs active in free movement, as well as academics, and finally the private sector including those involved in production of documents and/or in document security features.

Stakeholders, such as public authorities will also be consulted. This consultation will focus on the cards delivered by each Member State, and information on their delivery, production and costs as well as on fraud and security issues. The results of all consultation activities will be summarised in a synopsis report.


Will an implementation plan be established?

If the impact assessment and the analysis of the policy options conclude that legislative actions are needed an implementation plan (SWD) will be established.

(1) Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States
(2) Council Regulation (EC) No 1030/2002 laying down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals. The Commission proposal of 30 June 2016 COM(2016)434 amending this instrument in order to ensure greater harmonisation of the design and security features of the uniform format is at the final stages of the legislative process.