Regions want electronic signatures
The Committee of the Regions (COR) has emphasized the importance of making resources available under the Fifth Framework Programme to increase the awareness of the implications of electronic signatures. COR's Opinion on the "Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on a common framework for electronic signatures" has been published in the Official Journal. The proposed Directive aims to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market in the field of electronic signatures by creating a harmonized and appropriate legal framework for their use within the European Community and establishing a set of criteria which form the basis for their legal recognition. According to the proposal, global electronic communication and commerce depend upon the progressive adaptation of national and international laws to the rapidly evolving technological infrastructure. Even though in many cases application of existing laws could provide satisfactory solutions, it may be necessary to adapt these laws in response to new technologies in order to avoid inappropriate and undesirable effects. Although digital signatures produced using cryptographic techniques are currently regarded as an important type of electronic signature, the Commission believes that a European regulatory framework must be flexible enough to cover other techniques that may be used to provide authentication. COR welcomes the Commission's proposal and hopes that the Directive will be enacted and implemented swiftly, in part so as to avoid divergence in national legislation and in procedures applied in the business sector and public administration. The Committee calls on the Commission to take active steps to seek to ensure that the legal and regulatory approach towards electronic signatures set out in the proposal also gains acceptance at global level. Failing that, the Commission should endeavour to adapt the proposed directive to the provisions of the most general of the current international initiatives in this area. The Committee also draw attention to the fact that a legal and regulatory framework for electronic signatures which is accepted over an area larger than the European Union can make an important contribution to efforts to shorten adjustment periods for new regions in connection with enlargement and help to speed up the development of infrastructure within these regions. Furthermore, COR feels that the development of new services now under way in local and regional administrations and the business sector requires that the general rules governing the use of electronic signatures should, as far as possible, be independent of the particular technology applied. Finally the Committee considers it of great importance that the use of electronic signatures increases quickly. The volume of transactions needs to be sufficiently great both for commercial certification services and the expansion of electronic commerce. It is particularly important from the regional point of view that resources available under the Fifth Framework Programme and other resources available to the Commission are used to increase awareness of the practical opportunities offered by electronic signatures.