eIDAS can become as important as the euro

With its regulation on electronic identification and Trust Services, simply eIDAS, the European Union has created a European digital trust space for electronic administrative processes. How far the eIDAS regulation has advanced in Germany, was investigated by Bundesdruckerei in a comprehensive study. Mid-June it was presented on the eIDAS Summit in Berlin. In the interview, Dr Kim Nguyen, Head of Trusted Services at Bundesdruckerei, talks about potentials and application examples of the regulation, necessary legal adjustments and specific recommended actions for policymakers.

The study attests the regulation's enormous potential and compares it to the euro in terms of significance. Can you briefly explain your optimistic assessment?

Nguyen: With its so-called trust services, the sIDAS Regulation provides tools for secure and trustworthy electronic communication. It thus creates the foundation for a functioning digital domestic market. These trust services - such as the qualified electronic signature or the qualified electronic seal - are technology-neutral, based on common standards and apply throughout the EU. They have a substantial evidential value in court and offer a unified level of security. Just as the euro is a European means of payment, the sIDAS trust services could be used EU-wide for all legal administration and business processes.

Which application scenarios are particularly appealing for public administration?

Nguyen: We see great potential in the use of qualified electronic seals. These are issued to an organisation and ensure the origin and integrity of electronic data. For official certifications, this is an important feature. Therefore, they are excellent for issuing birth, marriage or death certificates, and reports. Substitute scanning according to the RESISCAN technical guideline is also interesting. The Federal Agency for Real Estate Tasks, for example, uses the qualified electronic seal for the digitisation of its existing personal files. Remote signature is a further eIDAS trusted service. It enables electronic signing via mobile devices. The Thuringian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Society will use remote signature in 2019, for example, for the application of funds. Companies, municipalities, and private individuals can use it to sign application forms, and the ministry employees can grant applications this way.

How do you assess the status of implementation?

Nguyen: Unfortunately, these tools are little known, so far. Moreover, the eIDAS trust services are still not sufficiently anchored in German law and are currently not applied on a broad scale. For us to fully exploit their potential, the eIDAS services must be given greater legal consideration.

Can you give us examples of this?

Nguyen: The eIDAS Trust Services should be integrated into the E-Government Act. Authorities would then be obliged to accept electronic documents with qualified electronic seals as well. The Administrative Procedure Act is about declaring eIDAS Trust Services suitable, permissible, or even binding for specific administrative acts. Deeds, for example, could then be issued with electronic seals. The need for regulation reaches as far as to the German Civil Code and the Social Code. In this context, the eIDAS tools are, for instance, interesting for the issuing of electronic certificates or the exchange of data and documents within the health care system. The stronger incorporation of eIDAS Trust Services into the existing laws creates a win-win situation for all parties involved: citizens interact more easily and quickly with the authorities, and the federal government and local authorities' business processes become significantly more efficient.

What recommendations for action do you have for policymakers?

Nguyen: The study mentions specific legal amendments to integrate the qualified electronic seal and the qualified website certificate into German law. With a view to the German Council Presidency in 2020, the study recommends that the German Federal Government push ahead with the further development of the eIDAS Regulation. This includes new instruments such as the introduction of an eID function for companies. At the same time, the use and recognition of Trust Services must become more binding, and the prerequisites for the certification and admission of eIDS Trust Services must be more standardised.

Download Bundesdruckerei's current study on eIDAS from the Bundesdruckerei website.

[Translate to English:] eIDAS kann so bedeutend wie der Euro werden