E-signatures: New EU Commission Proposal

June 5, 2012

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 will also create 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, claims the Commission, will give full effect to the major potential savings of eProcurement.

The draft Regulation can be accessed here

The proposal is said to fully respect 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 gives notice that that it wishes to join the pan-European scheme, it must offer the same access to public services via e-ID that is offered to its own citizens.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes 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 Commission is at pains to emphasise that 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.

It states that key beneficiaries of the various aspects of the Regulation will include:

·                  students seeking to register for a foreign university online, who could do this from their home country rather than having to travel abroad to complete the paperwork in person

·                  citizens arranging a move to another EU country or a marriage abroad or filing multiple tax returns

·                  patients needing medical assistance abroad, who could securely check or authorise a doctor to access their online medical records

·                  companies wishing to tender online for public sector contracts anywhere in the EU, who 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, who could set up a company through the Internet and submit annual reports online, with ease

·                  governments, by reducing administrative burdens and increasing efficiency.