European Council adopts new identification regulation

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The Council of the European Union yesterday (23 July 2014) adopted a regulation establishing the conditions for mutual recognition of electronic identification; setting rules for trust services, in particular for electronic transactions; and creating a legal framework for electronic signatures, seals and time stamps, electronic documents, as well as registered electronic delivery services and certificate services for website authentication (PE-CONS 60/14; statement: 11733/14 ADD 1).

The adoption came about through the General Affairs Council, which meets once a month. The meetings bring together the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States. The ministers responsible for European Affairs also participate depending on the items on the agenda.

The final adoption of the legislative act by the Council follows the agreement reached at first reading with the European Parliament in April 2014. The regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU, which is expected to occur in the next few days.

Easier and more secure cross-border transactions

The new regulation provides a common basis for secure electronic interaction between businesses, citizens and public authorities.

It aims to increase the efficiency of online public and private services, e-business and e-commerce in the EU and to increase trust in electronic transactions in the internal market. Mutual recognition of electronic identification and authentication is vital, for example, to make cross-border healthcare a reality for European citizens.

Mutual recognition system for electronic identification

The new rules require Member States to recognize, under certain conditions, the electronic identification means of natural and legal persons relying on the electronic identification scheme of another Member State that has been notified to the Commission. It is up to the Member States to choose whether they want to notify all, some or none of the electronic identification schemes used at national level to access at least public online services or specific services.

These rules only cover the cross-border aspects of electronic identification, and the issuance of electronic identification means remains a national prerogative.

Timetable for mutual recognition

Member States wishing to do so will be able to join the system of recognition of electronic identification means notified by others as soon as the necessary implementing acts are in force. This is expected to take place in the second half of 2015. Mandatory mutual recognition is expected to start in the second half of 2018.

From electronic signatures to trust services

Until now, there were only EU provisions on e-signatures, set out in the 1999 e-Signature Directive, which is repealed with effect from July 2016.

In addition to improving and extending these provisions (overcoming some of the limitations of the various transpositions of the Directive into state law), the new regulation also introduces, for the first time, EU-wide rules on trust services, such as the creation and verification of electronic time stamps and registered electronic delivery services, or the creation and validation of certificates for website authentication. Trust services that comply with the regulation will be able to circulate freely in the single market. In addition, an EU trust mark will be created to identify trust services that meet certain strict requirements. The use of the trustmark will be voluntary.

Aproved text: REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC.

European Agency of Digital Trust.

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