MEPs voted by a large majority to support the introduction of a common driving licence to fight-off "driving-licence tourism" by alcohol, drug and speed offenders.
New credit card-style licences, which may include a microchip, will replace the 110 different models currently used in member states. Starting from 2013, the ten-15 year licences will aim to restrict "driving-licence tourism", whereby drivers banned in one member state travel to another to get a licence.
Member states have until 2033 to replace all existing licences in circulation with the new model, a deadline that was criticised by some; "Six years after the adoption of this directive, it could be necessary to wait another twenty years [to 2032] before being able to withdraw the old yellowed papers, certainly without a photograph, and replace them with the new credit-card model,” said shadow rapporteur Dirk Sterckx of the alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
The directive also introduces new rules for motorcyclists. A "step-up" approach will mean that riders have to accumulate experience before moving onto larger bikes; in addition, access to the most powerful engines will be raised to the age of 24 while a theory test will be compulsory for moped drivers. British Conservatives claimed that bikers had been driven "round the bend", with Philip Bradbourn MEP describing the new law as "Draconian".
Meanwhile the Greens welcomed the new EU driving licence saying that it will prevent "alcohol, drug and speed offenders, who have had their licenses revoked, from 'shopping' for a new license in other member states, with a continuous exchange of data."