Brussels, 30 November 1999
Commission welcomes new legal framework to guarantee security of electronic signatures
The European Commission has welcomed the adoption of a new legal framework guaranteeing EU-wide recognition of electronic signatures (at the 30 November Council of Telecommunications Ministers). The Electronic Signature Directive is a first example of the Commission's flexible and integrated approach towards developing a European framework for the development of electronic commerce. In the past only hand-written signatures have been legally valid but this legislation extends that recognition to electronic signatures and applies the Internal Market principles of free movement of services and home country control to E-commerce. It constitutes an important element in the Commission's on-going efforts to drive forward the rapid development of electronic commerce so as to capitalise on its potential to generate business and create jobs. This framework provides the security that the market for online transactions demands and strengthens the EU's position in the face of international competition in this new global market.
"Doing business electronically is increasing rapidly both for companies and for consumers. But without security and trust, there won't be a notable shift towards commercial and financial transactions on the Internet," said Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner responsible for the Information Society. Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein noted that the legislation is a foretaste of how the Commission intends to help develop the whole area of electronic commerce. "We can expect half of the European population to be connected to the Internet by 2005 and our integrated approach to electronic commerce - an effective mix of government regulation, self-regulation that allows for technological development - is designed to put Europe in the forefront of this revolution," he said.
Electronic signatures allow someone receiving data over electronic networks, via the Internet for example, to determine the origin of the data and to check that that data has not been altered. The Directive is not designed to regulate everything in detail but defines the requirements for electronic signature certificates and certification services so as to ensure minimum levels of security and allow their free movement throughout the Internal Market.
Its main elements are:
The full text of the Directive will be available on: