The Commission has adopted the Interoperable Europe Act proposal and its accompanying Communication to strengthen cross-border interoperability and cooperation in the public sector across the EU. The Act will support the creation of a network of sovereign and interconnected digital public administrations and will accelerate the digital transformation of Europe’s public sector. It will help the EU and its Member States to deliver better public services to citizens and businesses, and as such, it is an essential step to achieve Europe’s digital targets for 2030 and support trusted data flows. It will also help save costs, and cross-border interoperability can lead to cost-savings between €5.5 and €6.3 million for citizens and between €5.7 and €19.2 billion for businesses dealing with public administrations.
The Interoperable Europe Act introduces a cooperation framework for public administrations across the EU that helps build a secure cross-border exchange of data and agree on shared digital solutions, such as open-source software, guidelines, checklists, frameworks, and IT tools. It will also enable them to cooperate more effectively, exchange information and ensure the seamless delivery of public services across borders, sectors and organisational boundaries. It stimulates public sector innovation and public-private “GovTech” projects.
This bundles valuable resources in support of public sector entities all over the EU and paves the way to better reuse of existing solutions (ideally open source) for public benefit. In doing so, it helps remove administrative burdens, including legal, organisational, semantic and technical obstacles. As a result, it will reduce cost and time for companies and citizens, businesses and for the public sector itself.
The Interoperable Europe Act introduces:
- A structured EU cooperation where public administrations, supported by public and private actors, come together in the framework of projects co-owned by Member States, as well as regions and cities.
- Mandatory assessments to evaluate the impact of changes in information technology (IT) systems on cross-border interoperability in the EU.
- The sharing and reuse of solutions, often open source, powered by an ‘Interoperable Europe Portal’ – a one-stop-shop for solutions and community cooperation.
- Innovation and support measures, including regulatory sandboxes for policy experimentation, GovTech projects to develop and scale up solutions for reuse, and training support.
The future interoperability cooperation framework will be steered by the Interoperable Europe Board. The Board will be composed of representatives from the EU Member States, the Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee. Amongst others, the Board will have the mandate to agree on common reusable resources, support and innovation measures and update the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). The EIF is Europe’s widely recognised conceptual model for interoperability.
The Interoperable Europe Community that will support the Board brings together a broad set of interested practitioners and experts, for instance, from GovTech companies, the Open Source community, regions and cities across the EU to help implement new solutions.
The Digital Europe Programme will be the primary funding instrument for implementing the Interoperable Europe Act.
Essentially, interoperability is about achieving common goals together, despite organisational or geographical distance between actors. Public sector interoperability represents the ability of administrations to cooperate and make public services function across borders, sectors and organisational boundaries. It saves time and costs for citizens and businesses by improving their interactions with administrations. The fight against Covid-19 serves as a great example of effective interoperability. Thanks to interoperability, the creation of the EU Digital COVID Certificate facilitated cross-border travel in the EU during the pandemic.
Interoperable digital public services are essential for building the digital single market. Apart from the economic benefits and efficiency gains, case studies show that interoperability positively affects public values, such as improving trust from citizens in their governments.
In the past years, digital government and data experts have developed wide-ranging common interoperability cooperation practices based on the current European Interoperability Framework (EIF). However, recent evaluations have exposed serious limitations of this entirely voluntary cooperation approach.
EU Member States have increasingly stressed the need to strengthen European interoperability cooperation. Among others, the ministerial declarations signed in 2017 in Tallinn and 2020 in Berlin attests to this necessity. Likewise, EU citizens participating in the Conference on the Future of Europe called to facilitate cross-border interoperability. The proposal addresses these needs.