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Newly issued driving licences in credit-card format from 2013

As from 2013, all newly issued or replacement driving licences will be in a single EU-wide credit card format, according to legislation given second reading approval on Wednesday by the Transport Committee.

The new format will replace the more than 110 existing different models in the Member States. Member States will be able to incorporate a storage medium or microchip into the driving licenses. Limited validity will mean the data and photos they contain to be updated and new security features added periodically. MEPs adopted Mathieu Grosch's (EPP-ED, BE) recommendation regarding the Council's common position on the EU-wide driving license format. A large majority in the Committee supported the consensus reached in talks with the Council as a just compromise between various traditions and experience around the EU.

The new directive should also combat so-called driving license tourism: it says Member States must refuse to issue a driving license to an applicant whose permit was restricted, suspended or withdrawn in another Member State. An EU driving license network was therefore needed. For caravan owners, the European Commission had originally proposed that a B and E driving license was to be required.  During negotiations with the other institutions, Parliament succeeded in allowing category B license holders should to tow a trailer weighing below 4250 kg. MEPs also successfully defended the principle of progressive access for motorcyclists.

Accumulated experience on smaller motorbikes will be required moving up to larger engines. To protect the youngest bike fans, a theory test for moped drivers will become compulsory. There will also be EU wide harmonization of the rules for training and retraining of driving examiners, setting out basic qualifications, quality assurance and regular retraining programs. Finally, Member States will have to ensure that the new format replaces every license in circulation within 26 years of its introduction in 2013, i.e. by 2039. "I regret the length of this period, but I am confident that the changeover will in practice take place sooner", said the rapporteur. (EP Press)