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New EU rules on electronic identification, trust services and e-signatures move closer to adoption

Proposed new EU rules on electronic identification (e-ID) are a step closer to being introduced after EU Ministers and MEPs reached consensus on the plans.

Late last week the Greek Presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers announced that representatives of the member states that make up the Council had informally endorsed proposals for a new Regulation on e-ID and trust services. The "compromise" text has also received the informal backing of MEPs.

The European Parliament and the Council must both vote formally to approve the Regulation before it can be introduced. The vote in the Parliament is scheduled for next month and the Council's vote will take place thereafter.

The Regulation is designed to bolster cross border trade within the EU through the 'mutual recognition' of different e-ID schemes that currently exist across the trading bloc.

The draft Regulation would allow EU member states to "opt in" so that their e-ID schemes will be "mutually recognised" by other EU countries. In return for doing so those countries would be obliged to mutually recognise the schemes operated by the others who sign up to the scheme.

The new regime would, if introduced, also set rules for 'trust services' around how they authenticate individuals' transactions and secure their services so as to protect privacy and data security, and encourage the use of electronic signatures and time stamps on digital documents to validate and verify online agreements.

EU commissioner Neelie Kroes welcomed the political consensus reached on the reforms.

"The adoption of this Regulation on e-ID is a fundamental step towards the completion of the Digital Single Market," Kroes said. "This agreement boosts trust and convenience in cross-border and cross-sector electronic transactions."

Michalis Chrisochoidis, Greek minister for infrastructure, transport and networks, added: "Secure and uninterrupted electronic interaction between businesses, citizens, and public services must be enabled, thus increasing the effectiveness of public and private online services, e-business and e-commerce in the EU."

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