EEMA - the European forum for electronic business recently brought together legal experts from 19
European countries to compare the differing interpretations and states of implementation of the European Electronic Signatures Directive, which should have been introduced into the law of each European country by July 19 2001. With the exception of Germany, not one of the Member States has succeeded to meet the July 2001 deadline but the meeting concluded that there were valid reasons for this.
Representatives from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom met to compare the different interpretations of the Directive in each Member State, to form of view on the practical consequences for the use of electronic signatures in Europe.
As Jos Dumortier, the chair of EEMA’s legal work group and professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium commented, “It became very clear in the full day discussion that Member states are implementing the Directive in different ways, and have placed varying degrees of importance on its integration into national law. It was also very evident that there are some very valid reasons for the delays”.
The delays included the fact that the standards for product certification, supervision and accreditation of services by the standards bodies involved (ETSI and CEN) have not yet been published, and countries are awaiting clarification of these standards before they decide how to proceed. In addition, slow legislation in certain Member states means slow adoption into the law of that state. There was also concern by some countries that there was until now, little guidance on a European level about the strategies being adopted by other European countries. The meeting acted as a starting point in clearing up this concern by comparing the strategies in the 19 countries.
It became clear that different countries have different views on the level of supervision and accreditation schemes necessary for validation of electronic signatures; the German government has been looking at this area since 1996, and developed their own legislation prior to the issuance of the Directive. This legislation has since been modified in line with the Directive, but still maintains high security requirements for certification of products and services. Other countries, including the UK, are letting industry requirements lead the way, and are setting up supervision and accreditation schemes accordingly, in line with industry demands through the tScheme project.
“This meeting was the first of many steps in clarifying and coordinating the varying approaches to the Directive” said Dumortier. The Directive is seen as a very complex issue, but doesn’t need to be. As long as the differing approaches to the implementation into each national law are monitored and compared, we can ensure that certification authorities (CAs), certification service providers (CSPs), regulatory / supervisory authorities (RAs), vendors of PKI products and legal bodies in each country, all of whom will be affected by it, can become fully informed about what it means to them in practice.”
The consequences of the Directive for CAs, CSPs, RAs, vendors of information security products, consultants, users and governments will be discussed in a two-day EEMA workshop “The Legal Impact of the Electronic Signatures Directive on Business” to be held on November 29-30 in Brussels.
For more information on this workshop, contact email@example.com or visit http://www.eema.org
About The European Electronic Signatures Directive
The European Electronic Signature Directive was introduced by the European Commission to ensure that electronic signatures (every kind of electronic authentication attached to, or logically associated with other electronic data) should be accepted in legal proceedings. This could include biometric authentication, Message Authentication Codes (MAC), public key authentication schemes and even the typed name at the end of an e-mail. Only a 'qualified' electronic signature needs to be based on a certificate that meets specific requirements and has to be generated with a secure signature-creation device. A qualified electronic signature meeting these requirements has the same legal validity as a hand written signature.
About EEMA – www.eema.org
EEMA (the European forum for electronic business) is a non-profit organisation, formed in 1987 to provide a neutral platform for the whole spectrum of electronic commerce and business. EEMA has over 240 pan-European companies as members, spread over 20 countries, ranging from users, suppliers and government institutions.
EEMA’s aim is to bring together and improve the communications between all participants in Europe who wish to trade and communicate electronically, and to address industry issues on behalf of its members through the relevant international and governmental administrations. Through its interest groups, publications and conferences EEMA has been instrumental in moving European business towards electronic trading.
Note to press.
If you are interested in interviewing Jos Dumortier, or receiving a summary of the meeting in power point presentation format or finding out more about EEMA’s role and activities, or please contact firstname.lastname@example.org - direct tel. +44 1384 374008.
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