Achieving cross-border interoperability of public services within the EU is the central objective of the Interoperable Europe Act, a new legislative initiative of the European Commission for a reinforced interoperability policy. Although negotiations between the EU Council and the European Parliament to translate the Commission’s proposal into law are still ongoing, we feel the time is right to take a closer look at this upcoming piece of legislation.
In our previous blog post, among other things, we’ve already listed the various challenges this new EU Act in the making requires addressing, as well as how it addresses them. But what does the Act itself entail?
Interoperable Europe Act: outline
One of the novelties of the Interoperable Europe Act, besides its binding dimension for EU Member States, is the mix of a top-down and a bottom-up approach it introduces.
In a nutshell, the initiative proposes:
- a structured and co-owned EU cooperation on interoperability, which involves public administrations and private actors;
- the use of mandatory interoperability assessments to evaluate the impact of changes to IT systems and digital services;
- the sharing and reusing of interoperability solutions through an ‘Interoperable Europe Portal’, which acts as a one-stop-shop for such solutions and as a community platform;
- a number of innovation and support measures, such as regulatory sandboxes and GovTech cooperation, to encourage policy experimentation, develop skills, and scale up interoperability solutions for reuse.
Three main pillars
The proposal, as adopted already by the European Commission, rests on the following three pillars:
- interoperability solutions,
- policy implementation support projects,
- a governance framework.
To support these pillars, the Commission’s proposal also introduces two new general obligations for public sector bodies. To begin with, they will have to perform interoperability assessments. In other words, an interoperability assessment will be mandatory for any change to, or introduction of, an information system or system component of cross-border relevance that enables public services to be delivered or managed electronically. And secondly, they will have to support the sharing of interoperability solutions within the public sector.
A new paradigm for public services?
If you ask us, the Interoperable Europe Act could very well usher in a new era of European policymaking. In that new era, policymaking, just as regulation itself, will be fully digital-ready and interoperable-by-design. Such innovative policymaking, in fact, is part already of the European Commision’s Better Regulation agenda. That agenda also includes a number of regulation guidelines and a toolbox. These should help provide concrete guidance to European Commission services when preparing new initiatives and proposals as well as when managing and evaluating existing legislation.
As EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has clearly pointed out in the letter of intent that accompanied her 2022 State of the Union Address, digital transformation - and innovation in general - has become even more important in light of the recent health and geopolitical crises. This brings us to the new role that the public sector will have to play in strengthening the EU’s innovation capacity. Achieving that strategic goal will ultimately require a change of paradigm in how public administration works. It will need to operate in a fully accessible and highly transparent way, using open-source technologies and building on modern e-government concepts like the share-and-reuse principle and the once-only principle (OOP).
Sopra Steria: expert in interoperability
The Interoperable Europe Act is clearly an important part of the European Commission’s efforts to develop a trusted environment for the uptake of interoperability assets and the creation of an interoperability mindset. The Commission not only aims to succeed in those efforts while fostering inclusion and improving the accessibility of public services, but also without falling into the trap of over-regulation.
Since Sopra Steria is an expert on interoperability, notably in the Homeland Security area, it should come as no surprise that we have been a key technology partner of eu-LISA for many years. eu-LISA is the EU Agency in charge of the operational management of the EU’s Large-scale IT Systems in the Area of freedom, security and justice (LISA). The Agency has taken on an approach that puts interoperability at the centre of each of its projects. It goes without saying that we are very happy to support eu-LISA in those projects. However, our support is not limited to eu-LISA and the interoperability of information systems alone.
We are also a – real and potential – trusted partner of any public organisation that will have to implement the above-mentioned interoperability-by-design. Because of our commitment to that specific area of expertise, we also participated in last year’s SEMIC Conference on ‘Data Spaces in an Interoperable Europe’.
What are your thoughts on the EU’s interoperability strategy? Don’t hesitate to contact us and enter the discussion!