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EU states urged to ‘innovate to make the most of digital single market’

Out-Law News | 15 Oct 2014 | 4:10 pm | 1 min. read

EU countries have been urged to increase investment in technology systems and foster greater innovation to “make the most” of Europe’s digital single market.

European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes, who has responsibility for the EU’s ‘digital agenda’, said any transaction made offline “should also be possible online with just as much security”.

Kroes called on incoming EC president Jean-Claude Juncker to ensure that “every transaction with the Commission will be possible electronically” and for Juncker to “call for other EU institutions to do the same”.

One billion advanced electronic signatures are made across the EU every day and greater use of e-government services in Europe could yield savings of nearly €15 billion, Kroes said.

“We should not be putting any barriers in the way. On the contrary, we should do everything we can to make these online systems work more effectively and efficiently and make the most of our digital single market,” Kroes said. “Technically a lot is possible if we also have clear rules that add trust to technology.”

Kroes told an event on 14 October, marking the launch of ‘electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions’ (eIDAS) in the EU’s internal market: “Today, overall availability of e-government is at 72%, but across borders it's just 42%. This is a missed opportunity, even within our single market. Today, if you're a Polish business, you can't bid online for a German government contract.”

Kroes said public procurement in the EU is “worth trillions of euros a year” and equivalent to €1 in every €5 of the region’s gross domestic product. “Cut the bill by just 1% and you would save €20bn a year,” Kroes said. “For businesses and citizens, it means less hassle and cost. In Estonia, for example, you can set up a limited liability company in just 18 minutes using electronic identification (eID).”

According to the EC, the regulation on e-ID and trust services adopted by EU ministers and the European Parliament last July, which entered into force last month, “will increase the effectiveness of public and private online services, e-business and electronic commerce in the EU”.

The regulation ensures that individuals and businesses can use their own national eIDs to access public services in EU member states where eIDs are available. The regulation also set standards for enabling electronic signatures to have the "equivalent legal effect of a handwritten signature". Similar measures are designed to give recognition to electronic seals and electronic time stamps on digital documents to validate and verify online agreements.