Introduction to eIDAS

Standardising Digital Identity and Electronic Signatures (and more) in the EU

eIDAS and the Digital Single Market

The development of a Digital Single Market (DSM) for EU Member States is among the European Commission’s 10 priorities for the period 2015-2019. In short, it’s about: “Bringing down barriers to unlock online opportunities”. (1) The eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services) regulation is a crucial support to this initiative by providing a clear legal framework for the formalisation of a wide range of digital transactions.

Specifically, eIDAS is an EU regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions that applies as law within the whole of the EU. 

Trust services include electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamps, electronic delivery service and website authentication, and, together with eID, these elements are essential for the establishment of legal certainty, trust and security in electronic transactions. (2)

The eIDAS regulation, which began to take effect in 2016, repeals and replaces the Electronic Signatures Directive 1999/93/EC. eIDAS addresses the shortcomings of the 1999 Directive and expands its scope in a number of important ways.

In support of the DSM, eIDAS aims to facilitate the smooth flow of commerce in the EU through transparency, security, technical neutrality, cooperation and interoperability. In pursuit of these values, eIDAS:

  • Standardises the use of electronic identification (eID)
  • Defines a new class of “electronic trust services” (eTS)
  • Clarifies and ensures the legal validity of electronic signatures
  • Creates a European internal market within the EU for electronic trust services: 

These standards apply across borders as well as within individual member countries.

Electronic Identification (eID)

eID is an electronic method that “can guarantee the unambiguous identification of a person”. eIDAS ensures that people and businesses can use an eID means issued in their own Member State to access public services in other Member States. But the implications for private commerce extend much further. By providing an EU-wide legal framework for eID, eIDAS encourages the development of new eID offerings and facilitates their implementation in both the public and private sectors.

Electronic Signatures

The eIDAS regulation defines three levels of electronic signature: (Basic) Electronic Signature, Advanced Electronic Signature, and Qualified Electronic Signature.

Understanding these levels can help in choosing an e-signature solution that best suits the needs of your organisation.