ATHENS – Greek citizens will get new, improved identification cards to meet international security standards after years of delays, and the government has already reached out to companies who want to bid on the deal.
The newspaper Kathimerini said that the process is being rapidly stepped up because Greek authorities are this month expecting a group from the US Department of Homeland Security, which is to assess the extent of Greece’s enforcement of Washington’s visa waiver program (VWP) which lets citizens of 38 countries, including Greece, to travel to the US without a visa.
It took many years to get the visa waiver and while Greek passports are now recognized among the world’s safest and most secure, German airports were taking passengers from Greece-originated flights aside to check their documents, including ID’s.
Although both Greek and US officials have dissociated the VWP from Greek identity cards, the failure of Greek authorities to replace the current cards with new ones bearing biometric data on a microchip is an issue of concern for Washington, the paper said.
As a member-state of the European Union, Greece has been obliged since 2000 to upgrade its ID cards but has yet to overhaul the current system, which will cost about 80 million euros ($99.28) for the upgrade.