Digital Agenda: new regulation to enable cross-border e-signatures and take more advantage of e-identification in the Digital Single Market

Brussels, 4 June 2012 – The European Commission has proposed new rules to facilitate secure cross-border electronic transactions in Europe. The proposed Regulation will ensure that individuals and businesses can use their own national electronic identification systems in other EU countries where electronic identification exists. It also creates a single market for electronic signatures and related online trust services across borders, ensuring that these services work across borders and enjoy the same legal status as traditional paper-based procedures. This will give full effect to the potential savings brought about by e-procurement. The proposal fully respects national identification systems as well as the preferences of Member States that do not have national identification systems. It allows countries with electronic identification systems to opt out of the pan-European system. If a Member State notifies that it wishes to join this pan-European system, it must offer the same access to public services through eID as to its own citizens.

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said: “People and businesses should be able to transact in a borderless digital single market, which is the value of the internet. Legal certainty and trust are essential, which is why a more comprehensive Regulation on e-signatures and e-identification is needed.

This proposal will mean that we will be able to make better use of each other’s electronic identification, if we have it. With mutual recognition of national electronic IDs and common rules on trust services and electronic signatures, we will be able to prevent national divisions of the Internet and online public services and make life easier for millions of businesses and even more citizens.

Proposed Regulation No:

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

The main beneficiaries of the various aspects of the Regulation will be the following:

  • Students, who will be able to enroll in a foreign university online, without having to travel abroad to complete the paperwork in person.
  • Citizens preparing a move to another EU country, a wedding abroad or multiple tax returns.
  • Patients requiring medical care abroad will be able to securely control or authorize a physician to access their medical records online.
  • Companies will be able to submit online bids for public contracts anywhere in the EU. They will be able to sign and stamp their bids, as well as indicate their date and time, electronically instead of printing and sending multiple paper copies of bids via courier services.
  • People wishing to do business in another EU country will be able to set up companies via the Internet and file annual reports online – all with ease.
  • Administrations will be able to reduce administrative burdens and increase efficiency, thereby providing a better service to their citizens and saving taxpayers money.


The two elements of the Regulation (electronic identification and electronic signature) will create a predictable regulatory environment for seamless and secure electronic interactions between businesses, citizens and public authorities. This will increase the efficiency of both public and private sector online services, e-business and e-commerce in the EU.

The approach to electronic signatures, which is based on the existing Electronic Signature Directive (Directive 1999/93/EC), has resulted in a certain degree of harmonization of practices in Europe. All EU countries have legal frameworks for electronic signatures, although these frameworks differ and make cross-border electronic transactions impossible in practice. The same applies to trust services such as timestamps and deliveries and electronic seals and authentication of Internet sites, which lack European interoperability. This Regulation therefore proposes common standards and practices for these services.

In the case of electronic identification, the Regulation provides legal certainty through the principle of mutual recognition and acceptance, whereby Member States accept national electronic identifications that have been officially notified to the Commission. It is not mandatory for Member States to register their electronic identification systems, but the Commission expects that many Member States will choose to do so.

Thanks to the STORK project, in which 17 EU Member States have participated, the Commission and the Member States have demonstrated that mutual recognition of electronic identification works.

Today’s draft Regulation is the last of the 12 key measures proposed in the Single Market Act (see IP/11/469). These proposals are also part of the European eGovernment Action Plan (see IP/10/1718), the EU’s Roadmap for Stability and Growth (see IP/11/1180) and the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

Useful links

MEMO/12/403 Electronic identification, electronic signature and trust services: Questions and answers.

Link to the draft Regulation:

Additional information on the cross-border public services pilot projects