Monday, 27 April 2009

Identifying Infantas

About a week ago, skimming the local press, I read that the Infantas, the little Spanish Princesses Leonor, aged three and a half, and Sofia, two tomorrow I believe, had just received their ID cards, or at least their DNI numbers. It will be a lot easier for them to memorise their numbers than it is for their mother, only a member of the royal family by marriage and, therefore, subject to having a loooooong number to remember just like the majority of people. No, Leonor and Sofia have been given numbers 16 and 17, following on from their father who has number 15.

The DNI, Documento Nacional de Identidad, has existed electronically for only three years but has been around in other forms for a good deal longer. Apparently General Franco decided in 1944 that such a document was needed but it was not until 1951 that the first were issued, number 1 for the Generalisimo himself, number 2 for Mrs Franco and number 3 for their daughter.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, then only Prince and Princess of Spain, did not receive theirs, numbers 10 and 11, until 1965. Then in 1980, numbers 12 and 14 went to the Infantas Elena and Cristina (number 13 was not used, presumably to avoid misfortune) and their younger brother, Felipe, was given number 15.

According to Franciso Tesorero, Secretario General de la the Unidad de Documentacion de Espanoles y Archivos de la Policia Nacional (there's a title and a half!), the DNI was undoubtedly intended as a tool for controlling the people. The first to be documented were newly released prisoners and anyone whose profession caused them to move around a lot and to change residence frequently.

Initially the cost of the DNI was means-tested. Those who were judged to be pobres de solemnidad, seriously poor, and the unemployed got their DNI for free. Nowadays, the DNI-e, the electronic version, costs a standard 10 euros, considerably less than a UK passport and a little less than the NIE, foreign national's number.

Here are some other odd facts regarding the DNI:-
  • everyone over 14 must have one;
  • according to one source of information, it is illegal to go around indocumentado and you can be given an on-the-spot- fine for not carrying your ID card;
  • the same number is used on your driving license;
  • it is needed in order to open a bank account - hence some of our early difficulties! - and to collect pensions and benefits;
  • since 2001, in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia, it is bilingual (that language thing again!);
  • for a while it did not specify the gender of the holder but this was reintroduced in 1981;
  • it used to indicate profession, marital status and blood group but this stopped in 1985, perhaps because fewer and fewer people stayed in the same profession for long periods of time (an international phenomenon) and because divorce became legally available in 1981 and suddenly large numbers of people availed themselves of it!
  • the DNI-e has a chip which allows the holder to access various IT facilities and, despite Spain's still low, but growing, IT provision, more than 100,000 new cards are issued each month, apparently.
The situation varies in other EU countries.

ID cards used to be obligatory in France but nowadays they will accept a passport as ID. Spot checks are carried out in poor districts!

In Germany all over-16s must have an ID card or a passport but it is not necesary to carry it on your person at all times.

Since 2005 all Greeks aged 12 or over must have an ID card and citizens must produce them at the request of law enforcers.

Italians can apply for their ID cards from age 15 but must have one by the time they are 18. It is not obligatory to carry it on your person but if outside your community of residence you must be able to produce it. So, in practice most people carry it around with them.

Meanwhile, in the UK, where there has not been an ID card since the 1950s, we continue to debate the matter and go on using driving licenses, utility bills and all sorts of odds and ends to identify ourselves!

I, of course, have been known to travel to Portugal from here using only my Vigo library card as ID!!

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