The European Commission has welcomed the adoption of a new legal framework guaranteeing EU-wide recognition of electronic signatures (European Directive 99/93/EC). The Electronic Signature Directive is a first example of the Commission's flexible and integrated approach towards developing a European framework for the development of electronic commerce. In the past only hand-written signatures have been legally valid but this legislation extends that recognition to electronic signatures and applies the Internal Market principles of free movement of services and home country control to e-commerce. It constitutes an important element in the Commission's on-going efforts to drive forward the rapid development of electronic commerce so as to capitalise on its potential to generate business and create jobs. This framework provides the security that the market for online transactions demands and strengthens the EU's position in the face of international competition in this new global market.
Electronic signatures allow someone receiving data over electronic networks, via the Internet for example, to determine the origin of the data and to check that that data has not been altered. The Directive is not designed to regulate everything in detail but defines the requirements for electronic signature certificates and certification services so as to ensure minimum levels of security.