Fabian Demicoli

Digital Agenda: Digital Single Market

 New Regulation to
enable cross-border electronic signatures and to get more value out of
electronic identification in Digital Single Market
– The European Commission has proposed new rules to enable
cross-border and secure electronic transactions in Europe. The proposed
Regulation will ensure people and businesses can use their own national
electronic identification schemes (e-IDs) to access public services in other EU
countries where e-IDs are available.

It also creates an internal market for
e-Signatures and related online trust services across borders, by ensuring
these services will work across borders and have the same legal status as traditional
paper based processes. This will give full effect to the major potential
savings of eProcurement.

The proposal fully respects both existing national ID systems
and the preferences of those Member States without national ID schemes. It
allows countries with e-ID to opt-in or to remain outside of the European
scheme. Once a Member State notifies that they wish to join the pan-European
scheme, they must offer the same access to public services via e-ID that they
offer to their own citizens.

European Commission Vice President NeelieKroes said
"People and businesses should be able to transact within a borderless
Digital Single Market, that is the value of Internet. Legal certainty and trust
is also essential, so a more comprehensive eSignatures and eIdentification
Regulation is needed."

"This proposal will mean you can make the most of your
e-ID, if you have one. With mutual recognition of national e-IDs and common
standards for trust services and eSignatures, we can prevent a national
carve-up of the Internet and online public services and make life easier for
millions of businesses and even more citizens. "

The proposed Regulation will not:

  • oblige EU Member States to introduce, or individuals to
    obtain, national identity cards, electronic identity cards or other eID
    solutions,
  • introduce a European eID or any kind of European
    database,
  • enable or require the sharing of personal information
    with other parties.

Key beneficiaries of the various
aspects of the Regulation will include:

  • Students who could register for a foreign university
    online, rather than having to travel abroad to complete the paper work in
    person.
  • Citizens arranging a move to another EU country or a
    marriage abroad or filing multiple tax returns.
  • Patients needing medical assistance abroad could
    securely check or authorise a doctor to access their online medical records.
  • Companies could tender online for public sector contracts
    anywhere in the EU. They could sign, time stamp and seal their bids
    electronically instead of printing and sending multiple paper copies of the
    bids by courier.
  • People wanting to do business in another EU country
    could set up a company through the Internet and submit annual reports online,
    with ease.
  • Governments could reduce administrative burdens and
    increase efficiency, better serving their citizens and saving taxpayers' money.

Background

Both elements of the Regulation – e-ID and eSignatures – will
create a predictable regulatory environment to enable secure and seamless
electronic interactions between businesses, citizens and public authorities.
This will increase the effectiveness of public and private online services,
eBusiness and electronic commerce in the EU.

The approach to eSignatures, which builds on the current
eSignature Directive (Directive 1999/93/EC), has brought a degree of
harmonisation to practices across Europe. All countries in the EU have legal
frameworks for eSignatures, however these diverge and make it de facto
impossible to conduct cross border electronic transactions. The same holds true
for trust services like time stamping, electronic seals and delivery, and
website authentication, which lack European interoperability. Therefore, this
Regulation proposes common rules and practices for these services.

For e-ID the Regulation provides for the legal certainty by
the mutual recognition and acceptance principle in which Member States accept
national e-IDs which have been officially notified to the Commission. It is not
obligatory for Member States to register their national eIDs, but the
Commission hopes that many Member States will chose to do this.

The Commission and EU Member States have proven that cross
border mutual recognition of eIdentification works, through the STORK project
involving 17 Member States

The draft Regulation is the last of 12 key actions proposed
in the Single Market Act (see IP/11/469). These proposals are also flagged in
the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 (see IP/10/1718) and the EU's Roadmap to
Stability and Growth (see IP/11/1180); and Digital Agenda for Europe (see
IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

 

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