A Hungarian citizen using the Hungarian eID system to buy e-prescribed medicine in Romania? A Slovak citizen using a Slovak eID to sign a tax filing in Greece? A Bulgarian entrepreneur using a national eID when applying for a bank loan in Austria? It should all be possible under the eIDAS Regulation, but in most cases is not.
Only 14 % of key public service providers in EU Member States allow for cross-border eID authentication, and the annual number of such authentications is very small. Additionally, it takes about two years to complete the notification procedure for the new eID scheme.
In recent years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, the differences among the Member States in recognising eID and e-signatures have increased. In some EU states, e-signatures have even started to replace handwritten signatures, which in some cases cannot be used anymore.
Poland blazing an e-trail for the EU
In Poland, signing annual financial statements is one of the core duties of directors. It can be done only by qualified electronic signature within the meaning of the eIDAS Regulation ("QES") or Polish trusted e-profile. The same applies to UBO filings. However, many foreign directors do not have the QES and are often accustomed to regular, non-qualified, e-signatures (e.g. standard DocuSign). Obtaining a QES can be quite cumbersome without professional assistance from law firms and QES providers. Even proper signing of documents with the QES is far from a simple one-click approach.
Poland is also the biggest EU country in which, from September 2023, the eID became fully equal with traditional ID. Even AML-obliged entities (e.g. banks and notary publics) cannot request the traditional ID card instead of the Polish mObywatel app. However, this full recognition ends at the border with other Member States.
A true cross-border tool
Everything will change with the planned launch of the European Digital Identity Wallet ("EUID Wallet"). This tool aims to combine various eID and eTS services and ensure they are recognised across borders. Among other things, the EUID Wallet will allow the following: e-signing of documents; presentation of the eID; criminal record checks; applications for a driving licence (and then presenting the e-licence); obtaining a certificate of residency; access to medical history, e-prescriptions and social security services; confirmation of education and professional qualification credentials. The EUID Wallet will allow users to select the minimum required personal data which should be shared in each case.
Since April 2023, the EU Commission has been running tests in the Member States to assess the potential of the EUID Wallet and find solutions to ensure its true cross-border recognition. The Commission's goals for 2030 are for all key public services to be available online, for all citizens to have access to their digital medical records, and for 80 % of citizens to be using a digital ID. The new EUID Wallet is planned to be launched by the end of 2024. Time will tell if it is a success. For now, the EU digital landscape remains scattered.
author: Krzysztof Leśniak