MEPs have given the green light to the proposed implementation of an EU-wide digital ID system. (EPA-EFE/ANA ESCOBAR)


MEPs green-light EU-wide digital ID system


MEPs have passed the implementation of a proposed European Union-wide digital ID system.

Representatives approved the digital identity framework by a margin of 335 votes in favour to 190 against on February 29. The bill now needs formal endorsement from the Council of the European Union to become law.

While the digital ID framework has been controversial in Brussels, with many politicians highlighting possible privacy and civil rights concerns, those who supported it now insist such issues have been cleared up.

According to a press release published after the vote, signing up for a new digital identity “wallet” will be completely voluntary. The proposal mandates that those who refuse to take on a virtual ID should face no “negative repercussions” for doing so.

It added that the new system will allow users who do sign up to independently verify their identity online, without the use of any private software – the law providing for the free availability of “qualified electronic signatures” for Europeans.

This, in theory, will make it easier to open up a bank account within the EU, for example, as well as dealing with government bureaucracy – should the legislation be “properly implemented”.

MEPs have also insisted that the code behind the new wallets be “open source”, which they argued will help ensure transparency in its operation.

“This legislation aims to empower citizens by putting them in full control of the use and sharing of their data,” said the bill’s rapporteur Romana Jerković.

“Digital identity has evolved from being a mere convenience to becoming a catalyst for civic involvement, social empowerment, and a means to foster inclusivity in the digital age.”

Not all politicians were convinced that issues to do with the EU’s digital-identity plans had been fixed.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Identity and Democracy (ID) group politician Gerolf Annemans described the proposed system as putting the bloc on the road to a “surveillance society based on the Chinese model”.

“The EU is all-too eager to jump on this gateway to the QR-code society,” the Flemish politician said.

“The digital wallet for all citizens is a danger to our freedoms and our privacy!”

The European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) group’s Michiel Hoogeveen called the proposal an “insult to democracy”, in particular taking aim at MEPs whose parties are in the current Dutch caretaker Government, for voting in favour of the reform.

“Despite a majority motion in the [Dutch] House of Representatives against this, our Government voted in favour of the EU,” he said.

“Why do national parliaments still exist if they are ignored?,” he queried.