Friday, January 11, 2008

EU ID?

Admiral Lord West has given a definitive, but oddly confusing response to a question from Lord Pearson,

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP) Hansard source
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have held any discussions with other European Union member state Governments on the eventual introduction of a harmonised European Union identity card and registration system; and, if so, whether they support this proposal.

Lord West of Spithead (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office) Hansard source
We have held no such discussions as there is no proposal for a harmonised European Union identity card. Twenty four out of the 27 EU member states currently have their own national identity card schemes, and whether they issue identity cards to their own nationals is a matter for the individual member state.

In December 2005, during the United Kingdom presidency of the EU, a set of council conclusions was agreed on the minimum security standards for national identity cards issued by member states, but these are not binding on member states. The EU Lisbon treaty will bring the format of national identity cards within Community competence, such competence already existing in relation to the format of passports.

Which confuses chaps like me. Sentence one of the response is categorical. "There is no proposal for a harmonised European Union identity card". Phew we can all breath a sigh of relief, but hold on, what's this in the second paragraph?
So in answer to Pearson's question, are there plans, well yes there are, and not only that they were UK Government suggestions.

What is more the plans reside within the Constitution/Reform Treaty. That phrase 'Community competence' translates in Eurospeak as 'Exclusive power' as opposed to shared or national competence. So where does it say this in the Treaty? Article 63, part 3 tells us,

3. If action by the Union should prove necessary to facilitate the exercise of the right referred to in Article 17(2)(a), and if the Treaties have not provided the necessary powers, the Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure, may adopt provisions concerning passports, identity cards, residence permits or any other such document. The Council shall act unanimously after consulting the European Parliament.
So what was agreed in Council under the auspices of Charles Clarke,

Common minimum security standards for national identity cards - Council conclusions
The Council adopted the following conclusions:
"Recognising the mandate given to Member States by the Hague Programme and the 13 July 2005 Justice and Home Affairs Council;
Recognising the importance of ensuring the security of travel and other identity documents;
Recognising that the mandate relates only to security standards, not to any domestic uses of national identity cards and that no legally binding standards or timetables
are being imposed;
Without prejudging the issue of the possible legal basis for a measure harmonising minimum security standards for national identity cards and without affecting the right of each Member State to decide whether or not to issue national identity cards and whether to use biometric identifiers;
Recognising the priority to be attached to compliance with the standards established by the European Union in Council Regulation (EC) 2252/2004 on passports, and the draft regulations amending legislation on visas and residence permits. These standards are a reference point for those to be developed for identity cards;
Building upon the work already done on security features for passports, and bearing in mind the need for interoperability based on ICAO standards;

The Member States of the European Union, working together on an intergovernmental basis:
1. Have decided to accept the following interim conclusions of the experts working in the Committee created by Article 6 of Council Regulation (EC) 1683/95, which will be followed by more detailed technical standards in due course:
• as regards the security features other than biometric identifiers: to use the same
minimum standards on materials to be used, ink, printing techniques, etc. as those
established for passports, adapted to the card form of the identity card; and
• as regards the biometric identifiers: to use as a starting point the technical
specifications established for the integration of biometrics in the passport in accordance with Regulation (EC) 2252/2004.
2. Have decided to work towards putting in place the following minimum standards relating to the security of issuing processes:
• applicants should appear in person at least once during the issuing procedure for identity cards;
• applications should be verified by authorised personnel against existing databases
which should be regularly updated, for example, civil registers, passport and
identity cards databases or driving licence registers;
• monitoring of the issuing process is recommended, including where processes are
carried out by sub-contractors, and this should include regular audits;
• in principle, no single member of staff should carry out every part of the issuing process for an individual; and
• secure storage, transport and transmitting of data and components of documents should be ensured.
3. Have decided to further their cooperation by exchanging information on a regular basis on their national practices, taking into account the experiences of Member States regarding electronic identity cards."
So when Admiral West talks of these things being voluntary he is right, today. But whether they will continue to be voluntary after the ratification of the Treaty I really cannot tell, but that ominous phrase 'Community Competence' suggests not.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why then did the earliest versions of the UK Identity Card bear the EU symbol?

See for example here:

http://www.iits.dircon.co.uk/newalliance/idcards.htm

Yes, that's right - the ring of stars, as on the EU flag, one of those provocative "symbols of statehood" which were so ostentatiously expunged from the EU Constitutional Treaty during its re-packaging as the Treaty of Lisbon, only to be partially reinstated through Declaration 52, page 306/267 here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2007:306:0231:0271:EN:PDF

"Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the ‘Ode to Joy’ from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto ‘United in diversity’, the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union AND THEIR ALLEGIANCE TO IT."

(My capitals.)

Anonymous said...

There is a massive history of EU involvement with identity documents - 'British' passports with EC/EU on the front cover, driving licences with the 'ring of stars', etc.

Have a look at the New Alliance site - various 'What's New' articles back to 2004 - and make your own mind up.

http://www.newalliance.org.uk/press5k2.htm#euidc has some leads.

In the UK, the ID card is the tip of the iceberg known as 'the surveillance society' or 'the database state'. Statewatch and NO2ID have also done some good research.

The Times - 25/11/07 - is worth a look on data sharing:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1890019,00.html

Then there is the question of 'electronic identity for accessing public services' and 'health ID', which are being planned on an EU-wide basis.

Elaib Harvey said...

Anon
I remember that mock up; but I think it was a newspaper thing.

I hqdn't seen that choice quote about allegiance though; thanks for that.

I have been following the EU ID brief for a while; my own favourite is "the internet of things", RFID stuff, in 50 euro notes.

Tolpuddle Marta said...

As far as I can see the only people who have anything to fear from ID cards are (a) those fraudulently claiming benefits and (b) farmer, seafood processing factory owners and suchlike who see the end of their supplies of illegal workers to exploit at slave wages.

The French (entre autres) have had ID cards for decades, I don't recall them suffering anywhere near as much ID theft as the UK does. Nobody objects to carrying them.

The only thing I object to is having to pay £40 for one - if it's compulsory it should be (ideally) free, or cost no more than a national ID card in France or Belgium (i.e. less than £5).

UK is known throughout the world as an easy option for criminals, fraudsters, gangmasters and fly by nights due to the ease with which you can "lose yourself". In the current circumstances, to argue for less state control is asking for trouble. If anything an ID card system is more transparent than previous UK state control methods, they already know everything about you anyway, with the ID card system at least YOU will know they know.

Anonymous said...

England DEMANDS to know who is Louise Rose and how can I get her phone number.....

Elaib Harvey said...

I fear that Lousie is merely a figmnent of somebody eles's imagination

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