19th Oct 2017

One driving licence agreed for all the EU

The European Parliament has cleared the way for a new law harmonising EU driving licenses across the European Union, but the new license will not be obligatory until 2033.

European lawmakers meeting in Strasbourg voted overwhelmingly in favour of a common EU driving license on Thursday (14 December) that will replace the bloc's current 110 driving licenses held by almost 200 million people - which range in shape, size, the length of time they are granted for and the ease with which they can be counterfeited.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The common EU driving license will make roads safer, MEPs say (Photo: EUobserver)

However, the law will only come into practice in 2013 – when newly-issued driving licenses must be of the new credit-card-like permit – while the deadline for the replacement of all old driving licenses will not be for another 26 years in 2033.

"It took a very long time to bring about the European driving license," said Belgian centre-right MEP Mathieu Grosch who wrote the parliament report on the issue, and he hoped "existing driving licenses will be replaced a lot sooner than the maximum transition of twenty years."

Mr Grosch explained that Germany, Austria and many of the new member states had been against a shorter transition period.

"The Germans are proud of their little grey paper driving license," he explained to journalists in Strasbourg. "For them it's like giving up your soul."

He added many of the new member states had been reluctant about the new EU licence because they had just recently spent the time and money on new licences.

Driving license tourism

The new directive means also that an EU citizen who has had their card taken from them either for drink driving, other offences or for health reasons, cannot cross the border and then get a new one in another member state – which happens in Europe today.

"This means that we will have a higher road safety in the EU and we will easier know whether all drivers have the right driving license," said Swedish socialist MEP Ewa Hedkvist Petersen in a statement.

"The problem of driving license tourism…will disappear," she added.

Furthermore, young motor cycle drivers will be required to get experience on less powerful bikes before moving on to bigger motor bikes in a so-called step-by-step approach of practical experience.

"Motorcycles are the only category of road users where the number of fatal accidents rises every year," said Mr Grosch, explaining that "drivers who are younger than 24 are required to gain two years of experience on smaller motorcycles before moving on to more powerful machines."

Chip is optional

The new license will contain anti-falsification measures but it has been left up to member states to decide whether to insert a microchip containing the holder's driving record.

Mr Grosch esplained that the UK had mentioned the chip could contain information about the driver, as UK citizens have no ID card, while the Nordic countries suggested it could be used for paying road taxes.

Also under the new law, governments will no longer be able to hand out drivers licenses for life – as in the case of Germany, Austria, France and Belgium.

It will be valid for ten years only, with member states having the option of extending it up to 15 years. Licences for trucks and buses will only have a five-year shelf-life. The time limits are to help cut down on fraud.

It is also left up to member states whether they want to introduce regular medical tests for elderly drivers.

Commenting on the fact that most of us will not see this new driving license for some time to come, Ms Hedkvist Petersen said she believes and hopes that most of the member states will go through the transition period much faster than required. "Nobody wants to be the last."

EU okays Privacy Shield's first year

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote

As the renewal of the weedkiller glyphosate is a hot potato on the EU agenda, with a vote in the Parliament on Thursday, the role of two closely-involved EU agencies has come under scrutiny.

Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis

Spanish political leaders called on Catalan separatists to organise regional elections as a way to avoid emergency measures due to be taken on Thursday. That's "not on the table", a Catalan official replied.

Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle

The European parliament claims the media and public do not have a right to supervise or monitor the public role of MEPs, says Natasa Pirc Musar, a lawyer representing journalists, in a transparency battle against the assembly.

News in Brief

  1. EU summit moved to previous building after fumes scare
  2. Catalonia will 'not back down'
  3. New toxic incident in EU building ahead of summit
  4. Murdered Malta journalist's family invited to Parliament
  5. EU food safety chief denies keeping studies 'secret'
  6. EU states pledge 24,000 resettlement places so far
  7. US ready for arms sale to update Greece's F-16 fleet
  8. Austria's Green leaders step down following election failure

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU okays Privacy Shield's first year
  2. EU seeks to decrypt messages in new anti-terror plan
  3. EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote
  4. Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis
  5. How EU can ensure Daphne Caruana Galizia's legacy survives
  6. Juncker dinner to warm up relations with eastern EU
  7. Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle
  8. The unbearable lightness of leadership