'New EU rules on national identity cards and travel documents will "compel Ireland to introduce fingerprinting" of all holders of the Irish passport card, according to a document circulated by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU (pdf).
Passport cards as identity cards
The passport card is available to all Irish citizens holding Irish passport books and can be used to travel "within the EU/EEA and Switzerland and is recognised as a valid travel document by relevant national authorities," according to the country's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Under a Regulation proposed by the European Commission in April 2018 on the security of identity cards and travel documents, all national identity cards in the EU will have to contain two fingerprints and a biometric photograph (alongside other data) and be issued in the ID-1 format, which is governed by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules.
Ireland (along with the UK and Demark) has an opt-out from EU rules introduced in 2004 that require biometric fingerprints in passports, and the country "requested to specifically recognise in the Regulation passport cards as a passport and thus exclude them from the scope," says the Council document.
However, the Austrian Presidency and the vast majority of other Member States think otherwise:
"The Presidency is fully aware of the concerns of Ireland. However… Irish passport cards are issued in the ID card format (ID-1) and grant their bearers the right to exit and to enter another Member State similar to identity cards issued by other Member States. This means that despite their denomination, passport cards should fall within the scope of the Regulation."
Thus, all holders of Irish passport cards will have to be fingerprinted, if the Council and Commission's preferred rules are maintained following negotiations with the European Parliament. It is unclear whether this requirement will also extend to passport books. Despite repeated requests from Statewatch to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for clarification on this point, there has been no response.
The Committee on Justice and Equality of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Ireland's parliament) examined the Commission's proposal on 30 May 2018, the month after it was published, and concluded that it did "not warrant further scrutiny".
At that time, however, it was not known that the proposal would oblige Ireland to introduce the fingerprinting of passport card holders.'
Read more: Irish passport card holders to be fingerprinted under new EU rules
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