"…eGovernment is becoming mainstream, which means that eGovernment expenditures have become an integral part of the policy budget…" – announced Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud. Interest in this key area was indeed greatly demonstrated by the more than 1,000 conference participants and over 20 ministers at the Ministerial eGovernment Conference “Reaping the Benefits of eGovernment” on 19-21 September 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal. The prestigious event was jointly organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council and the European Commission, under the chairmanship of Minister Pedro Silva Pereira, representing the Presidency of the European Council, and in the presence of Vice-President Kallas.

On the eve of the conference ministers took stock of progress made since the launch of the European Commission’s i2010 initiative for Growth and Jobs as well as the Manchester Ministerial Declaration (2005) and the European eGovernment Action Plan. The National Progress Report on eGovernment in the EU27+ presents the impressive achievements so far. As Commissioner and Vice-President Kallas noted "We have come far - but we still have some way to go. Together we will set the agenda and drive forward the development." By signing the Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment on 19 September 2007, Member States unanimously reconfirmed their commitment to continue improving public services offered to citizens and businesses through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

The new Ministerial Declaration demonstrates Member States' dedication to continuing progress in this domain by focusing on (i) strengthening the European dimension through cross-border interoperability; (ii) reducing the administrative burden and consequently the administrative costs and thereby allowing citizens and businesses to interact efficiently and effectively with public administrations; (iii) ensuring inclusive eGovernment services, especially with regard to the economically less favoured groups and vulnerable parts of the population and (iv) re-engaging citizens in political processes and increasing transparency.

The conference also hosted an exhibition containing the most outstanding eGovernment solutions and applications in Europe, which have been selected through the European eGovernment Awards contest.

And what does all this mean in concrete terms for businesses and citizens? For an Italian citizen wanting to move to Romania, administrative procedures such as registration or transferring insurances and funds can be facilitated by the use and mutual recognition of electronic identities (eIDs). A Portuguese SME that would like to supply healthcare products to a German public hospital could in future benefit from the EU-wide implementation of electronic public procurement (eProcurement) and respond easily to public tenders. A visually impaired citizen trying to submit a tax declaration online will be supported by inclusive eGovernment services. A Spanish student interested in environmental issues may choose to participate in the local decision-making process through the interactive website of your municipality. Realising the goals set in the present Ministerial Declaration, citizens and businesses would have easier access to public services and administrations throughout Europe by 2010.

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