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Brussels wants fingerprints added to ID cards

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Brussels wants fingerprints added to ID cards

fingerprint - Image by Metronomo

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission put forward a package of security measures Tuesday, including more secure ID cards, stricter rules on explosives and firearms, and better data sharing to help fight crime and terrorism.

"By giving law enforcement access to crucial pieces of financial information, we are closing another loophole being exploited by terrorists, and hitting them where it hurts – their finances," said Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King: "And together with facilitating easier gathering of electronic evidence, tightening controls on firearms and explosives precursors and strengthening the security of ID cards, we are further squeezing the space in which terrorists operate."

Improving security features of ID cards to curb document fraud

The Commission is proposing to improve the security features of EU citizens' identity cards and non-EU family members' residence cards. With an estimated 80 million Europeans currently having non-machine readable ID cards without biometric identifiers, the aim is to curb the use of fraudulent documents that can also be used by terrorists and criminals to enter the EU from non-EU countries, by:

  • Setting common security standards across the EU in line with the minimum security standards set out by ICAO;
  • Making biometric data mandatory for those countries with ID cards: EU citizens' ID cards (older than 12 years) and non-EU family members' residence cards will now include biometric data, namely fingerprints and facial images, stored on a chip in the cards. This will be accompanied with stronger safeguards on who can access the biometrics;
  • Carrying out an ambitious phase-out process: the new rules provide for a relatively quick but gradual phase out of non-compliant cards at their expiry or at the latest within five years and for less secure ones (i.e. non-machine readable) within 2 years.

The proposed Regulation does not introduce compulsory ID cards across the EU but upgrades the security features of existing ones, whilst leaving other aspects relating to the design of national ID cards entirely up to individual Member States. By introducing these upgraded standards, the proposal follows a similar approach to that taken already by the EU for the security features of passports.

Cutting off terrorist financing

To allow law enforcement authorities timely access to financial information necessary for investigations of serious crimes (including information on bank accounts and financial analysis), the Commission is proposing a new Directive which will provide for:

  • Direct access to bank account information: law enforcement authorities and Asset Recovery Offices will have direct access on a case-by-case basis to bank account information contained in national, centralised registries enabling the authorities to identify in which banks a suspect holds accounts. Data protection safeguards ensure that only limited information on the identity of the bank account holder and only in specific cases of serious crime or terrorism would be made available to law enforcement officers.
  • Better cooperation: the Directive provides for better cooperation between national law enforcement authorities and the national Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as well as between Member States. This includes the possibility for law enforcement to request financial information or analysis from FIUs – including data on financial transactions, as well as the possibility for FIUs to request law enforcement information from their competent national authorities.

Tightening rules on explosives precursors and imports and exports of firearms

Home-made explosives have been used by terrorists in many attacks in Europe over the past years. To close this security gap, the Commission is proposing to strengthen the current rules on marketing and use of explosives precursors by:

  • Banning additional chemicals: the Commission proposed to add new chemicals to the list of banned substances which could be used to make home-made explosives. Since the substances can be obtained equally in in brick-and-mortar shops as well as from online retailers and online marketplaces, the new rules will also apply fully to online sales;
  • Ending the current registration systems: the new rules will put an end to the registration systems some Member States currently have in place. These systems, considered weak from a security perspective, allow members of the general public to register purchases of some restricted substance upon simple presentation of an ID card;
  • Careful licensing and screening:Member States can choose to have a licensing system for the purchase of a limited number of restricted substances which could have a clear legitimate use.Before issuing a license to a member of the general public, each Member State will have to verify the legitimacy of such a request and run a careful security screening, including a criminal record check;
  • Quicker and better information sharing: the new rules introduce an obligation for businesses to report a suspicious transaction to the responsible authorities within 24 hours. The new measures also provide for greater information sharing between companies, including online businesses, and awareness raising along the whole supply chain.

With the trafficking of firearms remaining a serious concern for Europe's security, the Commission is updating EU rules on the export and import of civilian firearms to include:

  • Improved control procedures: Member States should carry out systematic background checks on all individuals applying for export authorisations, in particular using the European Criminal Records Information Exchange system (ECRIS) to verify if the person has any previous criminal records and check the Conventional arms export control information system (COARM), which contains notifications of refusal of export authorisation,
  • Enhanced information exchange: Member States should make more systematic and better use of information, including by regularly feeding the COARM system and keeping a single national database of authorisations and refusals. They should also provide detailed statistics related to the import and export of firearms to the Commission by 1 July each year.

The Commission has also today proposed new tools to gather electronic evidence across borders in criminal proceedings.

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