New biometric passports in Slovenia

By EDRi · March 1, 2006

Slovenia is joining the list of Visa Waiver Program countries whose
citizens will be able to acquire new biometric passports before October
2006, as required by the United States. Currently there are 27 countries
participating in the Visa Waiver Program, including Slovenia, whose citizens
can enter the territory of the United States without Visa.

The selection process of the manufacturer of Slovenian biometric passports
is best described as chaotic. The two manufacturers of the current
non-biometric passports, Cetis and Mirage Holography Studio, immediately
revealed their aspirations to produce a new passport when the government
cancelled a contract for non-biometric passports in February 2005. They
confirmed the existence of prototypes of biometric passports before the
government even issued the first tender in March. A month later, a motion
for a tender revision was filed by Prosum company. The National Revision
Commission invalidated the tender and as a consequence, a new tender was
issued in June that was published in Slovenian and European Official
Gazettes. After Cetis won the tender, a motion for revision was filed again,
this time by Prosum and Mirage. The Ministry of Interior overruled the
motion and confirmed Cetis as a future manufacturer of Slovenian biometric
passports, but the “losers” continued the procedure with the National
Revision Commission which later in December 2005 ascertained that Cetis
complied with the demands of the tender.

After that long lasting and exhausting saga of tenders and revisions, the
Minister of Internal Affairs Dragutin Mate, the Minister of External Affairs
dr. Dimitrij Rupel and director of Cetis, Ms. Simona Potocnik signed a cover
contract for designing, manufacturing and personalizing Slovenian biometric
passports. These passports should be available to Slovenian citizens at the
beginning of September for the price of 25 Euro. Old, non-biometric
passports will be valid until they expire, so there is no need to obtain a
new passport unless travelling to the United States.

There has been virtually no public debate about the privacy issues with
biometric passports. Although some journalists wrote about the possible
risks of having biometric data stored on RFID chips in passports, it seems
that the general public is not concerned. The issue of biometric passports
was presented as “a requirement from Brussels and Washington” and the debate
in the media was mainly focused on complications regarding tenders, leaving
aside other important questions.

Biometric Passports – article and video clip from National TV news (in
Slovenian only, 15.02.2006)

EDRI-gram : No delay for EU biometric passports (6.04.2005)

(Contribution by Aljaz Marn, EDRI Observer –, Slovenia )