Without physical boarders, the single market has achieved a free and open Europe. More than half a century after the EU's inception, the dawn of the digital age calls for digital solutions.
Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 on electronic identification and trust services (the "eIDAS Regulation"), together with its adopted implementing rules, provides increased trust, security and convenience in seamless cross-border and cross-sector electronic transactions. It establishes a predictable legal framework for electronic identification and trust services allowing EU citizens, business, and public administrations to confidently go digital. The legal framework together with the technological interoperability infrastructure and components under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) constitute a comprehensive toolbox to help build and unleash the potential of the Europe’s Digital Single Market.
But, despite the Commission's efforts to raise awareness about the opportunities brought by eIDAS, are stakeholders in the Member States truly aware of the legal framework and its roll-out? Are there fora for experts and technical discussions?
At the ICT2015 Conference in Lisbon, the European Commission organised the "eIDAS Knowledge Café". The goal of this networking session was to learn how to best leverage eIDAS to create and innovate, with a particular focus on the electronic identification and the CEF eID building block.
The eIDAS Knowledge Café served as an opportunity to raise awareness on the eIDAS regulation and its content as well as on Commission's work with Member States under CEF in deploying reusable building blocks in order to ensure cross-border interoperability. What emerged from the discussion was an overall need for a widespread knowledge of the legislation, timetable for implementation and compliance by the Member States. The CEF booth was the place to be if you wanted to engage in great discussions with enthusiasts from all over Europe.
In the context of the implementation of the eIDAS Regulation, expert groups both on eID and trust services meet regularly. A cooperation network on eID has also been established. ENISA has also created the European Trust Services Forum gathering trust service providers, conformity assessment bodies and supervisory authorities. So, yes there are fora for experts and technical discussions. But what about other private and public stakeholders? The European Commission has been working to engage with stakeholders since the adoption of the eIDAS Regulation last year. We have organised five high-level events, invited stakeholders to have their voice heard on-line, and we are also working on the setting-up of an eIDAS European Observatory on online trust, security and transparency in the Digital Single Market. The eIDAS EU Observatory will serve as a network of experts and specialist stakeholders whose objectives would be to provide evidence-based contributions and data to EU policy makers, support eID and trust services and raise awareness.
Other issues were discussed during the Knowledge Café, in particular in relation to possibility of charging the private sector for the usage of eIDAS nodes, the projects selected for funding in Member States to set up national gateways to make the interoperable connections with other Member States for the use of eIDs, interoperability problems or security, like cross-border data retention or the possible use of data by private industries. All interesting points which are not always easily answered. Don't expect these debates to subside any time soon!
Above all, the eIDAS Knowledge Café truly uncovered one thing. The digitisation of eID and trust services will have a profound impact not only on our economy, but our society. Participants reflected on the powerful role ideas such as identification and trust services have within the diverse cultures of Europe.
The eIDAS Knowledge Café allowed a glimpse into the discussions that will be needed as Europe, and the world, transition towards a full digital age.