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The European Commission on Tuesday proposed the addition of what it called “security features” on EU citizens’ identity cards, and non-EU family members’ residence cards. According to the European Commission, 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.

According to the Commission, this will bolster the security of identity cards and reduce document fraud; provide law enforcement and judicial authorities with access to electronic evidence and financial information; further restrict terrorists’ access to explosives precursors; and strengthen controls on the import and export of firearms.

The Commission also proposed a new Directive which will grant law enforcement authorities and Asset Recovery Offices direct access to bank account information contained in national, centralized registries enabling the authorities to identify in which banks a suspected criminal holds accounts.

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, said the Commission.

“Today we take action to restrict explosives precursors and firearms, to step up the security of ID cards, and introduce measures to help law enforcement access information they need to fight crime and terrorism,” said Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

“We are building our security framework on core security measures, but also stronger border management, and more efficient judicial and law enforcement cooperation. This is how we move closer to a genuine and effective Security Union.”

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, said the Commission.

“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.”

The new rules introduce an obligation for businesses to report a suspicious transaction to the responsible authorities within 24 hours.

Member States are required to carry out systematic background checks on all individuals applying for export authorizations, 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 authorization.

Member States are also required to make more systematic and better use of information, including regularly feeding the COARM system and keeping a single national database of authorizations and refusals.