Electronic signature directive falls behind

The member states of the European Union are falling behind schedule in their implementation of the European Electronic Signature...

The member states of the European Union are falling behind schedule in their implementation of the European Electronic Signature directive, delegates were told at the opening of the Information Security Solutions Europe 2001 conference in London.

The directive, which is at the heart of the EU's attempt to catch up and eventually surpass America in e-commerce, should have been implemented by July this year but has become bogged down in technical and political difficulties. There is now a real danger that Germany may press ahead alone on the matter.

The directive is designed to ensure legal recognition throughout the EU of all kinds of electronic signatures.

Reporting on a meeting attended by representatives from 18 European countries in London on 24 September, Professor Dumortier, chairman of the legal work group of the European Forum for Electronic Business (EEMA), said that the timetable for the directive had been "too ambitious".

While the directive was needed to stop some member states forging ahead, to stimulate e-commerce and to "conquer the world with European standards", only Germany so far had put the necessary legislation in place, Dumortier added.

Delays have been partly due to the long wait for publication of agreed standards for "qualified signatures", and to slow legislative processes. But some countries have questioned the overall strategy, particularly when it could involve up to 10 or more different certification agencies in single countries.

In debates leading to the passing of the directive in 1999, Germany insisted on much more extensive regulation than other countries, including Britain.

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