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eSignature service used to sign World Bank agreement

On July 8 2020, the European Commission and the World Bank signed electronically a Financial Framework Partnership Agreement, which guides the terms under which the Bank Group will use EU funding for development projects across the world. This is the first international document the Commission signs using its own Qualified Electronic Signature service, EU Sign, an implementation of the eSignature Building Block.  It was also the first time the Commission made use of EUSign's newly introduced cloud-based qualified digital certificates.

In a Twitter post on the same day, the Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, described the e-signing of the agreement "a huge leap forward" in the Commission's target to become fully digital by 2024. 

History of EU Sign

EU Sign was launched four years ago as an additional effort to further digitise Europe and decrease its dependence on paper. 

Available to a number of European Institutions, bodies and agencies (EUIBAs), the service provides the possibility to electronically sign, validate and seal documents.

EU Sign is based on the CEF eSignature Building Block, an EU-wide standard for electronic signatures, which ensures the EU-wide (and further) recognition of the signatures made using this service. One of the signatures that EU Sign provides, the qualified electronic signature, has the same legal value as hand-written signatures.

In addition, the service is fully secured with encryption technology, used to verify and guarantee the integrity of the signed document and the identity of the signatory.

Covid-19: a game-changer

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies and institutions to rethink the way they do business, including the preparation, signing, and filing of documents.

Over the last few months, the use of electronic signatures has seen an exponential growth. As social distancing becomes the norm, and most private homes lack the infrastructure of a traditional office, such as printers, scanners, and reams of paper, organisations have turned e-signatures into standard practice. 

Between March and June this year, as strict lockdown measures were imposed around the world, the number of EU Sign end-users saw an increase of 260 percent. Monthly electronic signature operations went up by a staggering 600 percent.

Currently, 58 generic services projects allocated by INEA have been awarded to eSignature (and eID), while DSS Libraries have been downloaded more than 31.449 times.

European institutions have also taken full advantage of the service. In an effort to modernise its electronic archiving system, the Commission's Publications Office has employed the use of electronically signed PDFs. You can read its full implementation here.

How does eSignature work?

In Europe, electronic signatures are regulated by the eIDAS Regulation, which mandates the use of certain standards and specifications in the process.

Provided by the Connecting Europe Facility, the eSignature Building Block packages these standards with sample software and other support services to help Europeans build e-signature solutions recognised in all EU countries (and beyond).

The main component of CEF eSignature is the open-source library for Digital Signature Services (DSS). In essence, the DSS is a collection of standards, called baseline profiles, which specify how electronic signatures can be created and validated anywhere in Europe. 

CEF's eSignature comprises a series of reusable software components, standards and libraries that enable out-of-the-box compliance with the eIDAS Regulation.

DSS supports the creation and verification of interoperable and secure electronic signatures in line with European legislation, and it can be re-used in an IT solution for electronic signatures to ensure its alignment with European legislation and standards.

eSignature capabilities can be integrated with corporate systems via the available Java clients. For non-Java based corporate systems, eSignature capabilities can be integrated by accessing a well documented REST API. In addition, it can be used via a brand new mobile-friendly Web Portal, although currently only remote signing is supported. 

eSignature helps implement your own digital signature solution by providing the following services and resources:

  • The DSS Open-Source library: a library of software and technical specifications for building an eIDAS-conformant, interoperable eSignature solution;

  • A browser of Trusted Lists containing trusted providers of e-signature and e-seal certificates
  • A Trusted Lists Manager, that enables the creation, editing and maintenance of Trusted Lists in a standard, machine-readable format. 
  • E-Signature validation tests to ensure your solution is eIDAS-compliant

Less impact on the environment

While helping us abide by social distancing rules, CEF's eSignature Building Block is also mitigating our impact on the environment. Studies show that as much as 80% of consumed office paper is completely wasted, with only 7.5% of office paper waste reaching a recycling facility.

How can CEF help you?

Want to use eSignature on your project? We are here to help. Our tools and support services are described on our website and available to all. In addition to eSignature, we offer other Building Blocks, such as eID and eDelivery, which can also be used to support your digital signature activities. EU Sign is now available to a number of European institutions, agencies, and bodies (EUIBAs).

 Electronic identification of users from all across Europe

 Exchange data and documents securely and reliably

 Create and verify electronic signatures in line with European standards

Last updated on  Aug 19, 2021 12:07

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