Electronic Identity: easy access to public services across the EU

The European Commission, on the 30th May 2008, unveils a pilot project to ensure cross-border recognition of national electronic identity (eID) systems and enable easy access to public services in 13 Member States.

The Commission's project will enable EU citizens to prove their identity and use national electronic identity systems (passwords, ID cards, PIN codes and others) throughout the EU, not just in their home country. The plan is to align and link these systems without replacing existing ones. Throughout the EU, some 30 million national eID cards are used by citizens to access a variety of public services such as claiming social security and unemployment benefits or filing tax returns.

The European Commission, 13 of the 27 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) and Iceland (party to the European Economic Area agreement with the EU) will work together to enable different national Electronic Identity schemes to be recognised across national borders.

Without replacing national schemes, the new system will allow citizens to identify themselves electronically in a secure way and deal with public administrations either from public offices, from their PC or ideally from any other mobile device.  It means, for example that a student will be able to register in a foreign university using his/her home country's electronic identity. Some cross-border services already exist, including a Belgian web portal allows foreign companies to register to employ citizens from Sweden, for example. After completion of the project this should be possible using their national electronic identity card.

Easy access to public services across the EU is crucial for EU citizens travelling within Europe for business, studies or holidays and contributes to enhance the mobility of workers around Europe.

The project will run for three years and receive €10 million funding from the European Commission and an equal contribution from the participating partners.

At the beginning of the month, the Commission put in motion another large scale pilot project which will allow Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to bid for public sector contracts anywhere in the EU; a crucial step towards achieving the Single European Market.