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[FYI] Commission welcomes new legal framework to guarantee security of electronic signatures


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Commission welcomes new legal framework to guarantee security of 
electronic signatures  

 DN: IP/99/915     Date: 1999-11-30

     TXT: FR EN
     PDF: FR EN
     Word Processed: FR EN


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: 

Legal recognition: the Directive stipulates that an electronic 
signature cannot be legally discriminated against solely on the 
grounds that it is in electronic form. If a certificate and the 
service provider as well as the signature product used meet a set of 
specific requirements, there will be an automatic assumption that any 
resulting electronic signatures are as legally valid as a hand-
written signature. Moreover, they can be used as evidence in legal 

Free circulation: all products and services related to electronic 
signatures can circulate freely and are only subject to the 
legislation and control by the country of origin. Member States 
cannot make the provision of services related to electronic 
signatures subject to mandatory licensing.  

Liability: the legislation establishes minimum liability rules for 
service providers who would, in particular, be liable for the 
validity of a certificate's content. This approach ensures the free 
movement of certificates and certification services within the 
Internal Market, builds consumer trust and stimulates operators to 
develop secure systems and signatures without restrictive and 
inflexible regulation.  

A technology-neutral framework: given the pace of technological 
innovation the legislation provides for legal recognition of 
electronic signatures irrespective of the technology used (e.g. 
digital signatures using asymmetric cryptography or biometrics.)  

Scope: the legislation covers the supply of certificates to the 
public aimed at identifying the sender of an electronic message. In 
accordance with the principles of party autonomy and contractual 
freedom it does, however , permit the operation of schemes governed 
by private law agreements such as corporate Intranets or banking 
systems, where a relation of trust already exists and there is no 
obvious need for regulation.  

International dimension: so as to promote a global market in 
electronic commerce the legislation includes mechanisms for co-
operation with third countries on the basis of mutual recognition of 
certificates and on bilateral and multilateral agreements.  

The full text of the Directive will be available on: 


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EU-Minister beschließen digitale Signatur  

Die 15 EU-Staaten haben sich heute einstimmig auf Grundregeln für 
digitale Signaturen geeinigt. Die entprechende Richtlinie wurde nach 
Berichten von EU-Diplomaten in Brüssel bei einem Treffen der 
Fachminister beschlossen.  


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