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ID cards programmes and e-government initiatives are hoped to spur the development of an electronic signatures market across the EU, according to the European Commission.

The commission is concerned that low take up of e-signatures across Europe is slowing down trade in goods and services online. It wants the public sector to drive the adoption of the technology.

The latest progress report issued by the commission on e-signatures finds that the market for the more sophisticated versions of the technology has been "much slower to take off than expected".

It is hoped that ID cards programmes could encourage the use of e-signatures as in many cases they could serve to authenticate identities online, the commission says. In general, it is also hoped that ID management and public sector e-procurement schemes could also stimulate demand.

In its future plans the commission intends to place emphasis on interoperability and cross border use of e-signatures. A report on standards for e-signatures is to be compiled later this year in order to assess what further regulatory measures are needed.

European commissioner for information society and the media Viviane Reding said that usage levels of e-signatures are unsatisfactory.

"A reliable system of electronic signatures that work across intra-EU borders is vital to safe electronic commerce and the efficient electronic delivery of public services to businesses and citizens," she said.

"The EU rules that all 25 Member States have transposed into their national laws make e-signatures legally recognised on their territory. However, I am not fully satisfied with the take-up of electronic signatures in Europe.

"Much work still has to be done in particular to make signatures work across borders. I also see a need for asking whether we need further adaptations of our EU framework for electronic signatures to technological and market developments and to the better regulation-policy of this Commission. The development of e-signatures in the internal market will therefore continue to be under my close scrutiny in the year to come."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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