By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The Romanian Government passed a draft law calling on all holders of mobile prepaid cards to register, following a decision in this respect of the state’s highest security body, the minister of Justice announced.
“In its latest meeting, the Country’s Superior Defense Council (CSAT) decided to urgently promote a law on preventing and countering risks to the state national security. This is about the obligation of prepaid card holders to register them, to identify themselves. This is also an obligation for the mobile operators”, Robert Cazanciuc said yesterday.
Within six months, all the holders of such prepaid cards will have to register, the minister added. So far, a buyer was not compelled to identify himself when purchasing such a card. Between 12 and 14 million prepaid cards are in use now in Romania, according to official numbers.
Romanian PM Victor Ponta said the draft law complies with the European norms and pointed out there will be a public debate on it before the bill reaches the Parliament. He said he hopes the new law shall become effective as of January 2015. In return, the mobile operators’ association said it first wanted to consult the text of the bill before advancing a point of view.
Ponta also said the law will not be retroactively applied to current users. “We cannot do anything about it, we cannot call them back. I think a lot of school kids and high-school teens are using such cards, let’s not scare them and take them to register” he said. Despite this, it is not yet clear whether the law will apply or not to current users since the text says they have to contact their mobile operator and submit their ID info or else they face the suspension of the service on that specific number. Operators will have to inform their customers about this requirement if the bill passes the Parliament.
Earlier, Ponta explained CSAT was looking into passing such a measure following the terrorist attack in Burgas, the coast city in Bulgaria, in the summer of 2012 when six people died in a suicide attack attributed to Hezbollah. But Ponta’s government rejected in March 2013 a similar bill submitted by the opposition on grounds that the obligation to register the prepaid cards will encroach upon the citizens’ right of privacy. Romania’s initiative to register the prepaid card users come only one day after EU’s Court of Justice decided the data retention directive is illegal.