Contributing to efficient implementation of EU law

ICT implications

2016.23 Legal Interoperability

When is this action of interest to you? 

You are a policy officer in a public administration preparing or evaluating legislation. You would like to ensure that the legislation fosters interoperability and addresses digital implications. As to this latter, you prefer to assess early on the compliance of the digital requirements mandated by your legislation with the principles and recommendations of the European Interoperability Framework, and justify your proposal with solid estimation on the costs and benefits of implementation.

You work in the IT department of a public administration and you are in charge of the technical implementation of upcoming EU or national legislation. You would like to ensure that you are timely involved in policy development to channel in your expertise and take the proper architectural decisions considering the legislative initiatives in the pipeline with ICT impact.

What is this action about?

Legal interoperability is about ensuring that organisations operating under different legal frameworks, policies and strategies are able to work together. The European Interoperability Framework (EIF) suggests that the first step towards promoting legal interoperability is to perform ‘interoperability checks’ by screening existing legislation to:

  • identify interoperability barriers (like sectoral or geographical restrictions in the use and storage of data, over-restrictive obligations to use specific digital technologies or delivery modes to provide public services or contradictory requirements for the same or similar business processes, etc.);
  • provide recommendations to fill the identified interoperability gaps.  

In this respect, the ISA² Programme developed a draft “interoperability checks” methodology in early 2018. It is now piloted on various EU legislations in order to prove its added value before dissemination.

The testing of the measuring mechanism for the costs and benefits of interoperability - developed under the ISA Programme – also continued in the second half of 2018. The results of this pilot along with the recommendations concerning the next steps will be available early 2019.

Answering to the strong political drive for digitalization of Europe, the implementation of most new EU legislation requires the support of IT systems, e.g. for the exchange of information between competent authorities across borders or for the direct delivery of online public services to businesses and citizens.

The ICT impacts and interoperability aspects of legislation need to be taken into account as early as possible in the legislation preparation process to ensure reusability of existing IT solutions and interoperability among them, resulting in efficiency, cost and time savings.

The ministers in charge of eGovernment policy across the European Union also recognised this need by calling upon the Commission in their Tallinn declaration "to fully integrate digital considerations into existing and future policy and regulatory initiatives".

For this reason, proposed legislations should undergo a ‘digital check’:

  • to ensure that they suit not only the physical but also the digital world (e.g. the internet);
  • to identify any barriers to digital exchange and reusabilibilty; and
  • to identify and assess their ICT impact on stakeholders.

Tool #27 of the Commission’s Better Regulation Toolbox contains detailed guidance on digital checks. This Better Regulation Tool also points towards further sources of support available for policymakers and IT specialists. One of them is the “ICT Impact Assessment Guidelines”, of which the methodology was updated by the ISA² Programme in 2018 and is available for your use in case you work on a legislative proposal which may entail IT.

What are the objectives?

The overarching goal of this action is to promote and implement the recommendation of the EIF on legal interoperability, namely to:

  • Ensure that legislation is screened by means of ‘interoperability checks’, to identify any barriers to interoperability;
  • Seek to make new legal proposals consistent with relevant legislation – and duly address their ICT impacts - by performing ‘digital checks’.

The related specific objectives are to:

  • Raise awareness about legal interoperability among policy makers and architects in general and bridge the cultural gap between these actors;
  • Explain the importance and added value of interoperability considerations in a user-friendly manner;
  • Provide and promote the 'Legal Interoperability support offer', which helps to inject interoperability considerations into European legislation along the whole legislative cycle;
  • Improve the existing digital checks approach outlined in the Better Regulation Tool #27, and make interoperability more visible in the Better Regulation toolbox in general;
  • Promote the use of the updated ICT Impact Assessment Guidelines and enrich the legal interoperability support offer with further practical tools;
  • Explore the use of innovative technologies that could help automating the legal interoperability support offer activities; and
  • Further disseminate the above-mentioned methodologies and mechanisms to the EU countries.

What are the benefits?

  • Improved legal interoperability across Europe through implementing EU legislation that considers interoperability aspects and ICT impacts from its conception;
  • More efficient and less costly implementation of ICT aspects of EU legislation by identifying ICT requirements and analysing the related ICT impact of EU legislation upfront and by considering the reuse of existing solutions serving the once-only principle and user centricity. As a result, digital aspects of legislation better match with citizens' and businesses' use.
  • Support to decision makers to justify investment in interoperability solutions.

What are the next steps?

In 2019, the action will put emphasis on raising awareness about and building community around legal interoperability. In parallel, the action will enrich the existing legal interoperability support offer and promote its take up among the European Commission’s policy Directorates-General. 

The systematic interoperability/ICT screening of legislative proposals published on the Have your say Europa site will also continue in 2019. Our ambition is to create and rely on a streamlined process, which efficiently detects the initiatives with high interoperability impact. Subject to the interest of the policy Directorates-General in the lead, the action will provide in-depth assessment of these priority proposals leading to recommendations on how to address the identified interoperability barriers.

Finally, the action will explore the current practices of the European Commission’s services concerning regulatory reporting. Reporting requirements are widespread in EU legislation and seem to create interoperability barriers, for example by using different terms for the same concept with the result of collecting the same data several times. The action’s ambition for 2019 is to understand the existing problems in the context of regulatory reporting, to take stock of ongoing initiatives across the European Commission to address these problems and consequently to identify any gap that could be filled with the support of the ISA² Programme.