The European Commission, in 2016, published the long-awaited Communication on the EU e-Government Action Plan, which calls for concrete actions in relation to the digital transformation of national governments. The Action Plan, which is part of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy, aims to reduce the administrative burdens that European businesses and citizens face when interacting with public administrations. For merchants in particular, the digitalization of government administrations will cut red tape, making interactions with public bodies faster, more efficient and convenient and improve transparent while also cutting costs.
The former eGovernment Action Plan, which came to an end in 2015, had been an important tool for national governments and the Commission to modernize public administrations by, notably, establishing major steps in the development of national e-identification schemes guaranteeing the identity of a person online while online.
eID and Trust Services
A major milestone under the former eGovernment Action Plan has been the adoption of the Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transaction in the internal market. The Regulation ensures that people and businesses can use their own national electronic identification schemes (eIDs) to access public services in other EU countries where eIDs are available. Furthermore, it created a European internal market for electronic Trust Services such as electronic signatures, electronic seals, time stamp, electronic delivery services and website authentication, by ensuring that they will work across borders and have the same legal status as traditional paper based processes.
Through the eIDAS Regulation, which is legally applicable since July 2016, the EU has managed to lay down the right foundations and a predictable legal framework for people, companies and public administrations to safely access services and make transactions online and across border in just one click. For online merchants in particular, the adoption of eIDAS means higher security and convenience when, among others, setting up a business in another Member State or authenticating their customers.
The updated Action Plan aims to continue to encourage developments for the digitalizing of public and identification services by supporting the transition of Member States towards full e-procurement and the take up the electronic identification as a core element for secure, efficient and accessible digital public services. In addition, the Commission will also revise the European Interoperability Framework for common standards and technical specifications in electronic identifications until 2019.
Furthermore, the Commission will propose the creation of a Single Digital Gateway in 2017, which will enable online merchants to complete the most frequently used national procedures such as tax declarations fully online.
In response to the Commission’s communication, the European Parliament is currently preparing an own-initiative report, which will then feed into upcoming legislative proposals by the Commission.