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MEMO/11/99

Brussels, 21 February 2011

Internal Market Information (IMI) System: Frequently Asked Questions

What is IMI?

The Internal Market Information (IMI) system is a multilingual electronic tool that allows national, regional and local authorities to communicate quickly and easily with their counterparts in other Member States. IMI is accessible via the internet without the need to install any additional hardware or software.

IMI is a free public service that was developed by the European Commission and has been operational since 2008. It assists Member States in their obligation of administrative cooperation. This cooperation is a crucial factor in making Single Market legislation work as intended for businesses and citizens.

Today, IMI is used in the context of two Directives: the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (2005/36/EC) and the Services Directive (2006/123/EC).

In these areas it currently offers 3 main functions:

  • bilateral information exchange (one-to-one workflow) for the secure exchange of information between two competent authorities;

  • alert broadcast (one-to-many workflow) allowing Member States to inform each other about cross-border activities that could cause serious personal or environmental damage;

  • directory of national registers: a searchable multilingual database of more than 700 national registers, such as professional registers of architects.

Who is using the system?

IMI is used by competent authorities at national, regional and local level in the EU, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

At the end of 2010, 5 737 authorities were registered in IMI, representing a community of more than 11 000 users. Registration in IMI is only open to authorities with responsibilities in a specific policy area supported by IMI. Their registration has to be approved by an IMI coordinator.

As it stands, IMI cannot be used by companies or citizens. However, the Commission is exploring the use of web-forms in order to allow citizens, enterprises and organisations to interact with competent authorities who are registered in IMI.

What experiences have users had with IMI?

At the end of 2010, a total of more than 2 500 exchanges of information had taken place through IMI. Each month, on average, around 160 requests are sent via the system.

In 2010, most requests were sent by authorities in the UK (622), Germany (291) and the Netherlands (191) while authorities in Romania (303), Poland (282) and Germany (178) received the most requests for information.

User feedback about IMI is positive. According to a satisfaction survey carried out in 2010, the majority of respondents (58%) found the system quite easy to use, and a further 35% found it even very intuitive and easy to use.

The success of IMI can also be measured in the time it takes for authorities to respond to requests. In 2010, 58% of all requests were answered within 2 weeks, of which 26% within only 3 days. In ten Member States, including Spain, the UK and Germany, 60% or more of all requests were handled within one week. However, in six other countries including Romania and Poland, the two main recipients of requests, around 20% or less were handled within a week.

Does IMI benefit only public authorities?

By speeding up procedures and improving the communication between public authorities, IMI reduces costs caused by delays and enables authorities to provide a better service to citizens and businesses. As such, IMI is a tool that indirectly helps citizens and businesses to make the most of the opportunities offered by the Single Market.

Do you have concrete examples of cases in which IMI was used?

Example 1

"During a random check, the Czech Trade Licensing Office came across an entrepreneur from Poland who was selling stockings and gloves on the Czech market. He claimed that he had an authorisation from Poland, but the document that he showed to the official did not contain any dates. The Trade Licensing Office checked the validity of the document with its Polish counterpart via the IMI system. The answer came quickly: It proved that the authorisation was indeed still valid." Czech Trade Licensing Office

Example 2

“A Romanian doctor, whose professional qualification had already been recognised automatically, submitted a certificate of good repute issued by the district chamber of doctors in Bucharest. According to our information, it should have been the national chamber of doctors that issues this type of certificate. However, the doctor explained that the national chamber had pointed her to the district authority. The doctor was meant to start her work in Austria shortly and her other documents would have expired soon. So we contacted the Romanian chamber of doctors through IMI. We were very positively surprised that we received all the necessary information within a week. Thanks to the quick reply from Romania, the doctor could start her work as planned.” Chamber of doctors, Austria

More detailed information about IMI usage and user feedback can also be found in the IMI Annual Report, which is available for download on the IMI website at: http://ec.europa.eu/imi-net

What is the purpose of the Commission communication?

The Communication sets out the strategy for expansion and further development of IMI. The expansion strategy is one of the 50 proposals contained in the Communication "Towards a Single Market Act"1 and should also be seen in the context of the Commission's contribution to the "Europe 2020" strategy2.

Simultaneously, the Commission also published the first IMI Annual Report, which contains detailed information about IMI usage in 2010, technical improvements, legal issues, as well as training and promotion activities.

Why expand IMI and why now?

IMI has proven a reliable and useful tool in the two areas in which it currently operates. Therefore, it is time now, in line with the proposal in the Communication "Towards a Single Market Act", and based on suggestions from Member States and Commission services, to exploit its full potential.

Is the idea to expand IMI to other areas a "one-size-fits-all" approach? Why is it better than creating tailor-made solutions for the needs of each area?

IMI is designed as a flexible and modular tool. It is possible to customise it according to the specific administrative cooperation requirements of any new legislative area. Authorities would be given access only to the functionality they need for their work in this area.

Using IMI in other areas has a number of advantages:

  • it is quicker and less expensive than developing an electronic information exchange tool from scratch;

  • it offers an environment whose security and data protection safeguards have proven reliable in practice;

  • it allows for economies of scale (maintenance, user support, training and promotion);

- authorities with competence in several policy areas will save time having to deal with only one IT tool.

To which new areas will IMI be extended?

The Commission has started assessing which areas could benefit from the use of IMI. A staff working paper3 accompanying the Communication provides a list of potential areas. This indicative list has been drawn up on the basis of suggestions by Member States and Commission services. These areas will be further examined in the coming months in cooperation with Member States.

E-commerce and gambling are two examples of areas where cooperation could benefit from IMI.

E-commerce: at the end of 2010 the Commission launched a public consultation on the future of electronic commerce in the internal market and the implementation of the Directive on electronic commerce (2000/31/EC). The consultation addressed the issue of administrative cooperation, and asked whether IMI could be useful to support notification procedures. The results of the consultation will be taken into account when drafting a Communication on electronic commerce, expected in the first half of this year.

Gambling: in the 10 December 2010 conclusions of the Competitiveness Council on the framework for gambling and betting in the EU Member States, IMI was mentioned as a possible tool to facilitate administrative cooperation. A public consultation on online gambling is planned for the first quarter of 2011.

What are the new functions envisaged for IMI?

Apart from the functions (see above), the Commission will explore adding functionality to IMI so that it could become a comprehensive toolkit for administrative cooperation. For example, IMI could be used for notification procedures or to provide for searchable databases of information (without personal data). Efforts will also be made to find synergies or complementary solutions with other existing IT systems.

Why does IMI need a legal basis?

Today IMI operates on the basis of two decisions and a Commission recommendation.4 The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has repeatedly raised concerns about the absence of a legal basis adopted through ordinary legislative procedure for a system in which personal data is exchanged (such legal instruments exist for other large IT systems at EU level).

In order to remove any doubts in this respect, the Commission intends to submit a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation in the first half of 2011. This horizontal legal instrument will consolidate the current rules governing IMI and create a comprehensive data protection framework in order to provide a higher level of legal certainty, especially in view of further expansion.

Will the future expansion have implications for personal data protection in IMI?

Guaranteeing a high level of technical and procedural protection of personal data will continue to be a core element of the system and a strong commitment on the part of the Commission. The forthcoming horizontal legal instrument to be proposed by the Commission in the first half of 2011 will consolidate the rules currently in force and create a comprehensive data protection framework based on the principles of "privacy by design", purpose limitation and strict access control. The IMI website has a section dedicated to data protection where all relevant information is made available to readers:

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/imi-net/data_protection_en.html

What will the expansion cost?

The costs of IMI expansion will mainly depend on the technical development necessary to support the new administrative cooperation requirements. These costs will have to be measured against the expected added value of using IMI and the resulting benefits to citizens and businesses. It should be stressed that adding a new policy area to IMI that requires only the currently available functions implies no further technical development and thus no additional costs.

More information: http://ec.europa.eu/imi-net

EN

THE INTERNAL MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEM

THi

1 :

Commission Communication – Towards a Single Market Act for a highly competitive social market economy – 50 proposals for improving our work, business and exchanges with one another. COM(2010)608, 27.10.2010.

2 :

Communication from the Commission "Europe 2020 - A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive Growth", COM(2010) 2020 final

3 :

It can be consulted on the IMI website at http://ec.europa.eu/imi-net

4 :

Commission Decision of 12 December 2007 concerning the implementation of the Internal Market Information System (IMI) as regards the protection of personal data (OJ L 13, 16.1.2008, p. 18), Commission Decision of 2 October 2009 setting out the practical arrangements for the exchange of information by electronic means between Member States under Chapter VI of Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on services in the internal market (OJ L 263, 7.10.2009, p. 32, Commission Recommendation of 26 March 2009 on data protection guidelines for the Internal Market Information System (IMI) (OJ L 100, 18.4.2009, p. 12)


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