Brussels, 21 February 2011
Internal Market Information (IMI) system: Commission acts to make Single Market deliver better for business and citizens
Today the Commission is taking action to help citizens and businesses to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by the Single Market by publishing a strategy to improve governance of the single market. The expansion of the Internal Market Information (IMI) system to other areas of EU law such as, potentially, gambling and e-commerce1 will help to achieve this. IMI is a multilingual online application that allows national, regional and local authorities to communicate quickly and easily with their counterparts elsewhere in the EU. By December 2010, nearly 6 000 authorities were using this system where they can assist each other in order to, for example, process applications from foreign professionals, grant permissions or check that cross-border service providers comply with security obligations.
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "Thanks to IMI, procedures for the recognition of foreign diplomas that used to take up to three months can now be completed in only two days. It is now the time for IMI to unfold its full potential in many new areas to stimulate growth in Europe by offering better and faster services to citizens and businesses."
Key elements of the proposed strategy
1. Adding new policy areas to IMI: IMI currently facilitates administrative cooperation for the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC) and for services (Directive 2006/123/EC). It has been designed from the outset as a flexible system that can easily be customised to support administrative cooperation required by all sorts of single market legislation. There is great interest to expand IMI to other areas of cross-border cooperation, like, for example, gambling and e-commerce.
2. Further development of IMI functionality: In the long run IMI should become a comprehensive toolkit for any type of administrative cooperation. To this end, the Commission will explore adding functionality to IMI that will allow its use, for example, for notification procedures (in many areas such as the Services Directive and the e-commerce Directive, Community law obliges Member States to notify national measures to each other and/or to the Commission).
3. Synergies with existing IT tools: IMI also has the potential to complement the functionality of existing IT systems and vice versa. Synergies could be achieved by linking IMI up with systems that are used by the same user groups, such as the Regulated Professions Database. For example, different IT systems could be made accessible with a single login, or data entered into one system could be automatically updated in the other. This could save time and trouble for users.
In the first half of 2011 the Commission will submit a proposal for a legislative instrument to govern the operation of IMI. This instrument is needed in order to consolidate the current rules on IMI and to create a comprehensive data protection framework. This has been requested by the European Data Protection Supervisor in order to provide a higher level of legal certainty, especially in view of further expansion.
A roadmap for future technical developments in IMI and expansion of IMI into other areas will be proposed in the annual IMI report due for February 2012.
What is IMI?
IMI is a secure online application that has been developed by the Commission in close cooperation with EU Member States, and has been operational since November 2008. IMI allows competent authorities to communicate quickly and easily with their counterparts abroad. IMI helps users to:
How is IMI used in practice?
IMI is used by competent authorities at the national, regional and local level in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway who deal with the specific legislation supported by it2. IMI helps them overcome the main barriers to seeking assistance from other Member States such as:
For example, a Hungarian dentist who wants to work in Germany needs to have his professional qualification recognised by the competent regional chamber of dentists in Germany, who may in turn need to verify the dentist's Hungarian diploma. Using IMI, the authority can identify its Hungarian counterpart in the database of competent authorities and select a question in German. The Hungarian authority will receive the question in Hungarian and can select a corresponding reply in Hungarian that will be sent to the German authority in German. This works much faster than exchanging information by fax or letter, which often needed to be translated as well. Out of all requests made through IMI, 58% receive a reply within two weeks. For the dentist, this means that his application will be processed quickly without the need to request costly translations and that he will be able to start his work in Germany without delay.
For a detailed list of the areas please refer to the Staff working document that accompanies the Communication
Currently, the professional qualifications directive (2005/36/EC) and the services directive (2006/123/EC).