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Plans for single EU driving licence

Plans for a single European driving licence have been unveiled - replacing more than 80 different types currently in use in the 15 EU member states.

The new plastic card European licence would carry all information on the driver on a microchip, but the Brussels Commission rejected claims the move amounted to big brother legislation.

Transport Commissioner Loyloa de Palacio said the idea was to remove one of the last obstacles to the free movement of EU citizens.

"There are more than 80 different driving licence models with different entitlements and validity periods currently circulating, and hardly any proper enforcement of driving licences is possible," she said.

"It is time to equip European drivers with anti-fraud driving licences guaranteeing their right to drive vehicles for which they have the required qualifications."

About 60% of the EU population - about 200 million people - hold a valid driving licence, many of them using cars from cross-border trips between EU countries.

Harmonising the driving licence will benefit motorists because individual countries could no longer apply differing restrictions on non-national licence holders.

If approved by EU governments, the new EU licence could be introduced by member states with immediate effect or only brought in when existing national licences gradually expire.

Fears of big brother legislation were dismissed because, said the Commissioner, the EU already has laws protecting personal data. The new driving licence would contain no more information than that which already appears on current driving licences in Europe.

The Commission also proposed a new package of road safety measures, co-ordinating national road safety standards at European level to cut death and injuries on the roads.

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