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[FYI] EU: Legal framework for electronic signatures

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/ European Communities, 1999. 

Record Control Number: 13545

Date: 1999-09-01

Category: Preparatory act

General Information:

A common position on a proposal from the outgoing European Commission 
that would establish a legal framework for electronic signatures has 
been agreed by the Council of Ministers and will now pass to MEPs for 
their second reading.  

Recognising that electronic signatures are needed for secure 
electronic communication and e-commerce, the proposal aims to 
establish a clear framework which will encourage confidence and 
increase investment in these new technologies. The Council envisages 
that the electronic signature would have equivalent validity to the 
handwritten signature.  

If adopted, the proposal would create a framework for the secure 
transmission of electronic commerce, stimulating investment and 
encouraging growth, competitiveness and employment.  

Currently no Member State has set up a legislative framework for 
electronic signatures, providing an ideal opportunity to develop a 
harmonious legal framework at European level.  

The proposed Directive lays down minimum requirements concerning 
security and liability that would ensure electronic signatures were 
legally recognisable throughout the EU.  

Furthermore it establishes a legally recognisable system of 
electronic signatures where the origin of the data and the identity 
of the sender could be determined, with the ability to verify if the 
data has been altered.  

A certificate identifying the signatory, which would be issued by a 
service provider, would accompany data. Under the proposal minimum 
liability rules would be established, in particular holding service 
providers responsible for the validity of a certificate's content. 
Safeguards would be put in place to ensure personal data used by 
service providers is protected.  

The Council stated it would support the introduction at national 
level of voluntary accreditation schemes and an appropriate 
monitoring system to be adopted by Member States in order to 
establish public confidence.  

The proposal also includes mechanisms for cooperation with third 
countries on mutual certificates on the basis of bilateral and 
mulitlateral agreements, thereby encouraging electronic commerce on a 
world level.  

Following the adoption of the proposal an electronic signature 
committee will be established to clarify the requirements of the 
Directive and the generally recognised standards for electronic 

Data Source Provider: Official Journal of the European Communities

Document Reference: OJ No C 243 of 27.8.1999, p. 33.

Subject Index Codes: Information Processing, Information Systems