Local administrations play a key role in implementing interoperability solutions close to citizens and provide a wide range of services at local level. Carrying out interoperability assessments incurs a significant financial burden, which, in particular in smaller municipalities, may be too high to be sustainable. Members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) therefore call in their opinion on the "Interoperable Europe Act" on the European Commission to use available resources under direct management to cover interoperability related tasks of smaller cities and municipalities to ensure a successful digital transition in the long term.
Interoperability is particularly relevant for local and regional authorities given that they are the key actors that manage and provide network or information systems that enable public services to be delivered electronically. However, many regions and cities find themselves unable to prioritise digital transformation given the current financial and human resources available in the face of inflation, which can jeopardise their access to economic and social opportunities in the future and pose a real risk to digital cohesion overall.
In their opinion on the Interoperable Europe Act, which was adopted during the CoR plenary session on 24 May, CoR members called on the Commission to adopt clearer rules and make a clear financial commitment to ensure that local and regional authorities do not have to live beyond their means in terms of the resources provided. They underlined that the CoR welcomes the European Commission's proposal as it strives to set up a system of EU-wide interoperability governance, but stressed that certain aspects of the proposal need to be strengthened and refined, in particular in relation to new tasks for sub-national authorities and the resources made available to enable them to implement interoperability solutions quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, local and regional authorities should have the final say on the pace and scope of implementation of interoperability solutions on the ground.
Rapporteur Michele País (IT/ECR), President of the Council of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, said: "I am confident that bringing digital solutions closer to the people must begin on the level of regions, and advance from the bottom-up. It must reach the farthest, most remote corners of Europe, including islands, and mountainous areas, because in the European Union, no citizen, and no region can be left behind. We wanted to provide firm guarantees, so that local and regional authorities would be enabled by appropriate financial support to take their services to the next level. Citizens expect concrete results."
The Committee demands additional financial support to train staff and help local and regional administrations ensure that their systems are interoperable with those of other local authorities, regional authorities, nationally, as well as those of other EU countries and those of collaborating companies and suppliers. Members also highlighted that especially peripheral regions, such as island or mountain regions, are often not properly integrated in mechanisms of digital cooperation between Member States.
Finally, interoperability is of utmost importance for the digital resilience and strategic independence of the EU.
The European Commission has on 30 November 2022 adopted the Interoperable Europe Act proposal 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.
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