e-Parliament Programme: IT for parliamentary work
The e-Parliament Programme dates back to 2008 and it aims at providing enhanced legislative and parliamentary services to MEPs through innovative state-of-the-art ICT tools and solutions that increase parliament’s openness, accessibility and effectiveness.
The main idea behind e-Parliament is to establish a fully digital legislative text production chain supporting MEPs’ legislative activity, from drafting (or reception of external documents) to translation, providing verified and translated parliamentary texts to information dissemination systems in structured XML content.
The transformation to a fully digitalised legislative process is an ambitious and complex undertaking, especially as the programme’s many sub-projects have to fit together. Over time, the necessity to define clear priorities in order to keep focus and speed became more and more obvious. To this end, a Project Governance Board (PGB) was established in September 2012, composed of Directors and Directors-General from DG PRES, IPOL, EXPO, TRAD and ITEC, which has been decisive "in setting priorities and fostering a collaborative spirit between different directorates-general", according to Olivier Leboeuf, the e-Parliament Programme Manager.
The full benefits of the e-Parliament programme will only be achieved once all key components are in place, ensuring optimum efficiency and resource savings. The current phase of development will be completed by the end of the eighth parliamentary term in 2019.
The e-Parliament 2019 target is to provide to MEPs with an authoring tool to draft reports using XML based open LegalDocML1 standard (i.e. Akoma Ntoso v3) and to integrate this tool in the legislative text production chain.
How it works
One of the main features behind this programme concerns the implementation of XML-based tools (XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language) for the creation, edition, translation and dissemination of committee and plenary legislative documents, committee agendas, and all other parliamentary documents. e-Parliament is based on a solidly developed technical architecture consisting of a unique repository for XML content management (PURE-XML), a metadata document management and rendering solution (DM-XML) and a services oriented integration layer (EPS).
By providing a unique repository and user-friendly interfaces for MEPs, assistants and administration to deal with legislative documents, e-Parliament contributes decisively for high quality texts. In fact, an important part of e-Parliament has been the development of open source web editors like AT4AM - and in the near future AT4LEX (in its final stage of development) - that provide tools focused specifically on the legislative drafting activity. Over the years, building on this architecture, the program delivered and continues to develop useful applications such as DiSP, AT4AM, AT4LEX, QP web Form, DST and Cat4Trad (this latter developed by DG TRAD).
The idea is that the content produced by these editors is easily retrievable and reusable by all actors in Parliament, across all stages of the legislative process, from the creation of an initial draft report (AT4LEX, REPORTS phase 1), through the creation of individual Members' amendments (AT4AM), their signature (DiSP), their revision (DST) and translation (CAT4TRAD) to the verification and translation of these reports (REPORTS, phase 2), compilation and publication of final reports and agreements (4 column documents) and, ultimately, Parliament's Texts Adopted (REPORTS, phase 3).
The image below gives a simplified overview of the whole process:
Beside the implementations directly related to legislative documents, e-Parliament will also deal with the re-architecture of some outdated plenary applications like QP, CRE, PV and ALV. Once completed, some e-Parliament’s components could also be used to support other EP political activities which would benefit from a more automated treatment, such as the documents produced by Parliamentary Assemblies.
As part of the legislative process at European level, collaboration with other institutions, particularly the European Commission and Council, is important for the e-Parliament programme. Interinstitutional agreements have been put in place - but we leave that to a future article.
For more information on the e-Parliament programme, check out the glossary with definitions of all related applications and processes. You can also contact the e-Parliament Programme team.
More on the e-Parliament Programme
1. The OASIS LegalDocML refers to worldwide best practices for the use of XML within Parliaments’, Assembly’s or Congress’ document management processes, within courts’ and tribunals’ judgement management systems, and generally in legal document.