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Interoperability between national administrations for pan-European eGovernment services

European Commission - IP/06/216   23/02/2006

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/06/216

Brussels, 23 February 2006

Interoperability between national administrations for pan-European eGovernment services

A Swedish / Italian couple needs to fill in and provide dozens of papers to get married because the administrations of both countries cannot communicate electronically. Not only lovers are concerned. Heaps of paper must be piled up when it comes to setting up a company, paying taxes, transferring social insurance rights or participating in procurement activities in another Member State. A new Commission communication calls for interoperability among all national and regional administrations in the EU[1]. EGovernment at a pan-European level will remove administrative barriers and facilitate the free movement of businesses and citizens within the internal market. Modern public administration has to be built upon digital services together with streamlined eGovernment processes.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “The single market relies on modern and efficient public administrations which facilitate the mobility and seamless interaction of citizens and businesses. Interoperability is the basis for working together in the internal market. It will contribute to making Europe an attractive place to live, work and invest.”

Commissioner Viviane Reding, responsible for Information Society and Media, commented: “Our overall aim –must be eGovernment that delivers tangible benefits for citizens and businesses, everywhere in the EU, leaving no one behind. I want to put public administrations at the heart of economic growth, and will in the coming weeks propose an EU Action Plan on eGovernment. In this Action Plan, I intend to focus on areas where there is European value added. I also intend to take pragmatic approaches to overcoming some of the key challenges such as interoperability and electronic identification across borders.”

One of the major challenges of eGovernment is the multiplicity of government layers in the EU at the national, regional and local levels. Interoperability in eGovernment requires that all these layers are able to exchange information and to approach each other for services that are being delivered at a different administrative level.

In its communication, the Commission sees basically a need for interoperability at three different levels:

  • interoperability of administrative processes (called organisational interoperability) for:
  • "life-time events" for citizens - birth, marriage, social security, etc.
  • "business-events" - setting up a company, paying taxes, participating in procurement activities, etc.
  • Understanding each others information (called semantic interoperability): The systems must "understand" each other's language. For example, birth certificates are rather standardised documents but they look very different from country to country.
  • technical interoperability: The computers must be able to "talk" to each other. This is the interoperability level that is normally tackled via standardisation.

The goal of this communication is to call upon the Member States as well as industry to collaborate to make this interoperability happen. Therefore, the Commission wants to work with the Member States to set priorities, publish policy documents/guidelines and technical recommendations and to encourage standardisation. More concrete steps will be developed following the eGovernment action plan (part of the i2010 initiative) that will be proposed in the coming months.

Although Member States are responsible for the interoperability of their own systems, interoperability at European level is needed in order to implement common EU policies. The issue of such interoperability on electronic services of public interest should therefore remain high on the EU agenda (in the area of eGovernment but also others like health or education), notably as part of the new strategic framework “i2010[2] - A European Information Society for growth and employment” and the various related initiatives and programmes. i2010 explicitly addresses interoperability as one of the four main challenges for the creation of a single European information space and as essential for ICT-enabled public services.

More information:
IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services):

http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/home
eGovernment Research & Development:

http://europa.eu/egovernment_research
i2010 - A European Information Society for growth and employment

http://europa.eu/i2010

As a step towards EU eGovernment and to facilitate the increasing mobility of enterprises, the European Commission in a close co-operation with national administrations has launched the portal ‘Your Europe’. Under the business section of the portal, users find detailed information on business-related issues across Europe, including registration of companies, public procurement, regulations and funding opportunities.
More information

http://europa.eu/youreurope/nav/en/business/home.html


[1] COM(2006)45 final

[2] 2005 “i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and employment”, COM(2005) 229 final of 1 June, http://europa.eu/i2010.


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