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ELM News ImageNewly 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 by the Parliament. The new format will replace the more than 110 existing different models in the Member States.

Member States will be able incorporate a storage medium or microchip into the driving licences. Limited validity will mean the data and photos they contain to be updated and new security features added periodically.
The House backed by a large majority the recommendation drafted by Mathieu GROSCH (EPP-ED, B), which is the fruit of a consensus reached in talks with the Council as a fair compromise between the differing traditions around the EU.

Ten year administrative validity

The new licenses will have a limited administrative validity of ten years, which Member States are free to increase to up to fifteen years. For trucks and buses the license is valid for five years. Member States can choose whether to introduce regular medical exams for drivers.  The new directive will harmonise the existing classes of vehicles. For motorcycles a "step-up approach" will become obligatory in all Member States.
The new directive also seeks to combat "driving licence tourism": it says Member States must refuse to issue a driving licence to an applicant whose permit has been restricted, suspended or withdrawn in another Member State.
For caravan owners, the European Commission had originally proposed that a B and E driving licence was required. During negotiations with the other institutions, Parliament succeeded in allowing category B licence holders to tow a trailer with a mass exceeding 750 kg provided the maximum authorised mass of the vehicle combination does not exceed 4,250 kg.
MEPs also successfully fought for the principle of "progressive access" for riding motorcycles. This means that riders must accumulate experience on smaller motorcycles before moving up to larger engines. The age for direct access to the most powerful engines will be raised to 24 years. To improve safety for youngest riders, a theory test for moped drivers will become compulsory.
There will also be EU-wide harmonisation of the rules for training and retraining of driving examiners, setting out basic qualifications, quality assurance and regular retraining programmes.
Finally, Member States will have to ensure that the new format replaces every licence in circulation within 26 years of its entry into force next year, i.e. by 2033. Mr Grosch said: "I regret the length of this period, but I am confident that the changeover will in practice take place sooner".
Mr. Grosch also said that the agreement was reached after difficult negotiations and that it was a substantial step in the right direction, although he admitted that the final result was not fulfilling all expectations of those involved, such as Member States, MEPs and a wide range of interest groups. He also pointed out that "in addition to the necessary harmonisation at EU level, decisions are in accordance with subsidiarity left to more local levels wherever appropriate".
The common position was adopted incorporating five amendments on comitology.