Electronic signatures

Legal sources in Greece and in Cyprus

Directive 1999/93/EC about electronic signatures was implemented in Greece by the Presidential Decree 150/2001 and in Cyprus by the Law 188 (Ι) 2004.

This Directive has two principal objectives : a) the legal recognition of electronic signatures
and b) the creation of a legal framework about the certification service
providers.

Definitions

It is very important to define the electronic signature for the
application of the legal rules concerning their legal recognition.
“Εlectronic signature” means
data in electronic form which are attached to or logically associated
with other electronic data and which serve as a method of
authentication. This is a technologically neutral and broad definition
as rapid technological development and the global character of the
Internet necessitate an approach which is open to various technologies
and services capable of authenticating data electronically.

“Αdvanced electronic signature”  means an electronic signature which meets the
following requirements:(a) it is uniquely linked to the signatory (b) it
is capable of identifying the signatory (c) it is created using means
that the signatory can maintain under his sole control and(d) it is
linked to the data to which it relates in such a manner that any
subsequent change of the data is detectable.

Although the definition appears to be also technologically neutral,
in practice it covers mainly digital signatures which use assymetric
public key cryptography (in fact a couple of complementary keys, one
private/one public). In that system, the role of the certification
service provider is very important because this independent third person
or entity issues the certificates which link signature verification data
to a person and confirm the identity of the person.

Legal recognition in Greek law

Only advanced electronic signatures have same the legal value and
effectiveness as handwritten signatures on the condition that it is
based upon a qualified certificate issued by an accreditated
certification service provider and that it has been created by a secure
signature-creation device.

The advanced electronic signature has the same legal value as
handwritten signatures. In Greek law, presidential Decree 131/2003 about
electronic commerce provides clearly that contracts can be concluded by
electronic means (article 8). That means that a contract can be concluded
by the use of advanced electronic signatures.
However, as article 3 paragraph 2 of the P.D. 150/2001 provides that the
legal effectiveness and the admissibility as evidence in legal
proceedings of the electronic signature cannot be denied only because it
is not advanced, even not advanced electronic signatures have some legal
effectiveness as evidence in courts. If the law doesn’t require that a
contract should be concluded in writing in order to legally exist, it
should possible to conclude the contract by using even non advanced
electronic signatures.