Blogs | Privacy and data protection | Privacy and confidentiality

ID requirements in Europe

By EDRi · February 26, 2003

Only a few EU-member states currently have ID-requirements. Privacy-authorities and civil rights groups alike doubt the practical effects and warn against highly arbitrary checks. Belgium, France and Spain, where ID-requirements have been in place for a long time, have bad track-records of police discrimination.

Belgium currently has the strictest legislation, requiring everybody age 15 and older to show ID when asked by a police officer, without the need for a suspicion. In the Netherlands, the minister of justice recently proposed an ID-requirement for everybody age 12 and above. According to research by the ministry of justice, published in a letter to parliament 29 October 2001, the Netherlands would suddenly have the most repressive ID-scheme in Europe.

According to this research, in Germany inhabitants 16 years and older are required to show ID to police officers. In practice ID-requirement is limited to financial transactions. In France and Spain, officials must provide some ground, like danger to public safety, to require ID, but in practice there is a lot of debate about arbitrary checks, like in Belgium.

In Portugal ID-requirements are limited to very specific transactions and to suspects of criminal offences. In Sweden ID-requirements are very specific as well. No ID-requirements exist in the UK, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, though the plans for a national entitlement-card in the UK are heavily criticised as a hidden ID-scheme.

Netherlands: ID-checks to be introduced