The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on Electronic Document, Electronic Identification and Trust Services in Electronic Business (hereinafter "Amendments to the Law"), on May 20, 2021.
The Law on Electronic Document, Electronic Identification and Trust Services in Electronic Business (hereinafter "the Law") was passed in 2017, and in that time it replaced fairly outdated Law on Electronic Signature and the Law on Electronic Document.
Law must keep pace with society, and society today is geared mainly towards digital communication. All benefits of technological progress are used by the economy, therefore modern business, where time and saving of time are of the utmost value, is now geared more than ever towards modern communication forms.
It is the Law that regulates electronic business and its solutions provide security and trust to natural persons and legal entities just like signed and stamped sheets of paper. More importantly, public authorities are being integrated into this system. Without their participation, especially when it comes to the economy, all the benefits and savings of electronic business would be reduced to a significantly smaller extent.
Amendments to the Law represent the first amendments to the Law since its entry into force 4 years ago. During this period, natural persons, and especially legal entities, had many opportunities to come into contact with the provisions of the Law, mostly thanks to public authorities, where some actions are only possible (a failure to take such actions would be criminally sanctioned), through an electronic document, provided with a qualified electronic signature.
The shortcomings of the Law in practice, which are sought to be eliminated by the Amendments to the Law, primarily concerned the position of foreign persons. The manner of issuing qualified electronic certificates is a strictly regulated procedure, to the extent that the personal, physical presence of the person who requests its issuance, was set by Law as an absolute requirement.
The Covid-19 epidemic has significantly changed the world society, and movement restrictions, especially the interstate ones, have affected the economy as well. In such conditions, where the economy has already found solutions from the emerging crisis in digital technologies, the personal, physical presence of foreign legal representatives for the purpose of obtaining certificates without which it was impossible to proceed, was not possible nor justified
In that sense, Amendments to the Law offer new solutions, therefore, the Law adapts to society and its new circumstances. It was enabled to create a qualified electronic signature remotely, which will not require the physical presence of someone who requests this type of service, but it will still guarantee that the data for creating an electronic signature is used under the exclusive control of the signatory.
In addition to the above, a significant change of the Law is also based on international cooperation in the field of electronic identification. Regarding electronic signatures, the Law earlier only recognized the validity of those issued by the authorized certification bodies of the Republic of Serbia, while the implementation of those issued abroad required regulation through international agreements.
Amendments to the Law have established the possibility to legally use in Serbia electronic signatures of other countries, by establishing a clear mechanism that will enable cross-border authentication of persons. All of the above is primarily regulated taking into account the European Union and the electronic identification scheme published by the European Commission, in accordance with the eIDAS Regulation. The mentioned EU list will be automatically included in our Register of qualified means for creating electronic signatures and seals, which clearly shows that priority aim is facilitating electronic business.
The Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications shall cooperate with competent international bodies regarding issues of cross-border interoperability of electronic identification schemes. In such a manner, it will be enabled to connect the electronic identification issued in a foreign country with the one from the Republic of Serbia.
The harmonization of bylaws which will enable implementation of all changes in the practice, shall be done within 6 months from the date when Amendments to the Law enter into force.
Amendments to the Law further integrate and direct public authorities to the use of qualified electronic certificates and time stamps, in such a way that public authorities must now enable its use in their software solutions. In addition, any document of the public authority in the form of an electronic document must contain only a qualified electronic signature of an authorized person (a qualified electronic stamp is now placed as an alternative).
With further details regarding submission of the electronic documents, the conclusion is, that Amendments to the Law gravitate towards the improvement of the Law (bearing in mind the necessities and shortcomings in its practical implementation), and thus raising legal certainty in electronic business and creating preconditions for further economic growth.
By Nemanja Aleksic, Managing Partner, Aleksic & Associates