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First EU travel route with only digital ID pends approval: Finland to Croatia

First EU travel route with only digital ID pends approval: Finland to Croatia

Passengers could soon be flying from Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport to Croatia using digital ID on their phones, rather than physical ID card or passport, pending European Commission approval. But in the early stages of the project, passengers would still need to take their passport to be able to return home, reports the Helsingin Sanomat, via online translation.

Finnish authorities will need guinea pigs to test the first cross-border route, but they do not need to pack their tiny suitcases just yet. The first step is to complete the application by the end of August and await the European Commission’s decision as to whether it will fund the pilot. If approved, a multi-stage pilot would begin, with the Commission reportedly keen to see the results of such pilots to then introduce digital travel documents in the EU.

If approved, the project could start at the end of the year, although there are no direct flights between the Finland and Croatia until spring 2023. Finland is therefore considering other destinations. The Netherlands and Canada are also mentioned.

Mikko Väisänen, inspector of staff at Finland’s Border Guard said the Commission contacted Finland to see if it was interested in participating. Use of digital credentials could help speed up checks.

Phase out of the physical

In the first stage, a passport would still be necessary. Väisänen told the Helsingin Sanomat that a traveler would have an app on their phone to contain a digital travel document. Before travel they would send the information in the document electronically and in advance to border authorities. The data is deleted after the trip.

At border inspection, a photo is taken of the passenger to be used for identification. The passenger would need to hold the passport over the reader, but not open for a scan. This would be to read the chip. In a later step, the passenger would be able to hold his or her phone over the reader.

Similar plans are in place for Croatia, but passengers would need to take a physical credential to ensure they can complete all legs of the journey.

Helsinki’s Vantaa airport would have one line for both departing and arriving passengers to pass through border checks during the digital ID pilot.

The digital travel document may also do away with boarding passes and other documents as face recognition could be used instead at security and boarding, says Väisänen.

Finland may also be planning to use biometrics from civil and travel registries to investigate major crimes.

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