New law aims to improve interoperability in public sector

UM – 01/2023

The European Commission wants to strengthen cross-border interoperability in the public sector through greater commitment and a clear governance concept. This is why it presented a proposal for an Interoperable Europe Act on 18 November 2022. It aims for seamless and unobstructed data exchanging between public administrations and public bodies. Work on a policy framework for interoperability within the EU and beyond has now been going on for more than 15 years. What is new here is that this European Interoperability Framework (EIF) is to be comprehensively designed and be legally binding. The draft regulation also proposes a governance approach.

Voluntary action is not enough

The European Commission’s legislative proposal goes back to the request made by the member states in October 2020, which called for intensifying the cooperation for improving interoperability as part of the continuing digital transition. This is crucial with regard to digitising the European Single Market, not least because of the many interconnections with the public sector. Sectors targeted by this include justice and home affairs, tax and customs, transport and economy as well as health. Member states have so far been reluctant to use EIF, mainly because of the voluntary nature of the approach.

Structuring cooperation in the public sector

The European Commission, through its legislative proposal, wants to ensure that digital services work across borders for everyone in Europe. Agreements and processes between different organisations, coordinated data descriptions as well as laws that permit data exchanging and long-term, structured cooperation in cross-border public sector interoperability are needed here.

Advisory board for an interoperable Europe

An advisory board consisting of representatives from the member states, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, chaired by the European Commission, is envisaged as the governance body. It should make the EIF obligatory and further develop it. This should result in open source software, guidelines, check-lists and IT tools being developed for it. They should then be made available via a new portal to be run by the European Commission. This will make the availability of public services seamless across country, sector and organisational boundaries.

Portal for an interoperable Europe

The "Portal for an Interoperable Europe" is intended to act as a central contact point and hub for the reliable exchanging of information about the cross-border interoperability of networking and information systems used in the EU. The exchanging and sharing of interoperability solutions via the portal should be flanked with legal obligations that will ensure that cross-border interoperability in the form of evaluations is always considered when planning or changing public administration networking and information systems. This also applies to statutory social security organisations and their associations, which are included in the scope of the proposed law.

Agenda for an interoperable Europe

The European Commission, through its legislative proposal, wants to stimulate EU-wide cooperation between public administrations, which will result in specific project work. Proposals for further improvements are to be collected and coordinated support measures are to be defined in a strategic EU-wide "Agenda for an Interoperable Europe". The draft already provides for innovative public service digital interoperability solutions to be tested in real laboratories for a limited period of time.