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?
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.
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 conclusionsSo 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.
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."