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Procedure : 2011/2178(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0083/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0083/2012

Debates :

PV 19/04/2012 - 19
CRE 19/04/2012 - 19

Votes :

PV 20/04/2012 - 10.3
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0140

Debates
Thursday, 19 April 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

19. A competitive digital single market - eGovernment as a spearhead (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. - The final item is the report presented by Silvia-Adriana Ţicău on behalf of the Committee on Industry Research and Energy, on a competitive digital single market – eGovernment as a spearhead (2011/2178(INI))

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, rapporteur. – (RO) Mr President, in 2010 the European Commission adopted the EU 2020 strategy aimed at creating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and improving economic governance. One of the seven flagship initiatives of Europe’s growth strategy is the Digital Agenda for Europe, a strategy for leveraging the potential offered by the rapid progress made by digital technologies.

Parliament welcomes the adoption of the European eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015, the European Interoperability Strategy and the European Interoperability Framework for European public services, and calls on Member States to take prompt action to align their national strategies with these overarching policies.

High impact services are important for cost savings, cross-border interoperability and for achieving the single market. Given that the public procurement market accounts for 16% of the European Union’s GDP and that SMEs make up 99% of EU enterprises, particular attention must be focused on the cross-border interoperability of e-procurement systems and on the large-scale adoption of e-invoicing. If fully available and more widely used, it could reduce public procurement costs by as much as 30%. However, 14 and 12 Member States respectively are already at the implementation stage for the pre-awarding and post-awarding phases.

We also appreciate the initiatives from Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden to make e-invoicing mandatory for public authorities, and call for e-invoicing to be made mandatory for all public procurement transactions by 2016. Key enablers, in particular electronic identity management, interoperability and open standards, are the most important prerequisites for successful e-government that is interoperable at European level. Member States should review the requirements of their e-signature framework in order to remove the barriers hampering cross-border services.

We call on the Commission to table as soon as possible a proposal for revising the eSignature Directive in order to ensure cross-border recognition and interoperability of secure e-authentication systems and the decision on mutual recognition of e-identification and e-authentication across the European Union.

Parliament emphasises that interoperable cross-border e-government services should benefit from an innovative architecture and technologies, public cloud services and Service-Oriented Architecture, and calls for the IPv6-level e-government infrastructure and online services of public interest to be upgraded. A secure cross-border e-government system is an integral part of the European Critical Infrastructure Protection programme.

We welcome the contribution of the IDA, IDABCD and ISA programmes and the large-scale pilots, as well as of the ePractice forum in terms of designing and implementing cross-border interoperable solutions. Parliament endorses the ‘Connecting Europe Facility’ proposal, which allocates around EUR 9.2 billion to support investment in fast and ultra-fast broadband networks and pan-European digital services. Parliament underlines that the Connecting Europe Facility will provide grants for building the infrastructure needed to roll out e-ID, e-identification, e-government, e-procurement, e-health, e-justice and customs-related services, and will be instrumental in ensuring interoperability and meeting the costs of running the infrastructure at European level, linking up Member States’ infrastructures.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, I too should like to thank the rapporteur. There is a general but very crucial assumption that we must make on this subject and that will direct our future policies in this sector. Today, in a very difficult economic environment, there are divergences between the Member States in terms of the provision of online services and these differences are, in turn, creating a serious competitive divide.

It is not, therefore, just the labour cost; it is not just general fiscal policies; it is also the opportunities, the transparency and the certainty that give a State that makes extensive use of new technologies in its transactions with the public and with businesses that are interested in investing in it a comparative advantage. This needs to be understood. A lack of eGovernment means a lack of competition for the Member States and, in addition to the hundreds of millions of euros budgeted under the Structural Funds, we need an extensive exchange of best practices and experience in this sector.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I would first of all like to congratulate Ms Ţicău for drafting this excellent report. Advanced digital services offer opportunities for improving and updating public services for citizens and businesses. They improve the efficiency and transparency of government business.

At the moment, a large proportion of public services in Member States are facing major challenges. e-government can make the public sector instrumental in the development of the economy and society. It also promotes economic growth and addresses the social and political challenges which the EU is facing. I think that having a European eGovernance Area for cross-border transactions and SMEs will help strengthen the digital single market. I welcome the numerous benefits that e-government can bring, especially to the disadvantaged groups in the population.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, I would like to start by applauding the efforts of Ms Ţicău to give new impetus to the issue of building eGovernment. In addition to the advantages of electronic communication with public administration already described, I would like to draw attention to the need to define at least the basic IT compatibility standards for public administration institutions that will gradually enter into the process. I think it is very important that operating systems and the applications based on them used by citizens, are able to communicate with each other. At present, for example, operating systems such as Microsoft, Android and others are used, and they do not work correctly for some applications and some devices. Therefore, if we want to build a public administration at the EU level or even to communicate with each other between the various institutions, it will be necessary for these operating systems and applications to understand each other and create together the integrated system that we wish to achieve.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI).(HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the economic crisis has definitely made us aware of three things: that bureaucracy must be reduced, administration must be accelerated, and savings must be made. This is especially important in light of what Ms Țicău has said, namely that SMEs account for 99% of the corporate world. Digitalisation and e-governance could make a major contribution in this regard. The fact is that while the report also considers consolidation important, there is nothing to consolidate in Eastern Europe, because this system is barely functioning there, making its development particularly important and deserving of European Union support. However, this system raises two very serious concerns. First, data protection must be guaranteed in some way. To companies, data protection is also a high priority due to economic competition. The second basic principle should be for the authorities’ competence to cover only their own nation states.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Mr President, the information and communication technologies that the rapporteur, Ms Ţicău, has spoken about have become a common part of everyday life of modern man and significantly affect economics, politics and society in general. The sector generates as much as 5% of GDP in the EU and contributes significantly to overall productivity growth. The real potential of the information and communication technologies sector remains untapped, given the many barriers to the single digital market. I consider one of the biggest limitations to be the limited cross-border provision of electronic and telecommunication services, which leads to the creation of unequal conditions for the provision of the same services in different Member States. Such internal market barriers and differences between the infrastructure development levels in the Member States must be systematically removed.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE). - (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, my first words will be to congratulate Ms Ticău on the tremendous work she has done in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on this eGovernment dossier. I would like to thank the Commission for its work.

I should like to make three comments. First, we need assurance that we have the coverage that will enable us to use all these new technologies across the entire European continent. This is an important factor for the competitiveness of our continent. In the canton of Meymac, in Corrèze, of which I am the elected representative, and also in Limousin and Auvergne, not all of our territory is covered, and this is a real problem. We need to achieve 100% coverage within the European Union and the Member States.

Secondly, government must not, under the guise of making life easier, become more complex. We, the citizens, are tired of excessive complexity and bureaucracy.

Finally, I would like to make a comment concerning the siting of officials. These new technologies must enable officials to stay where they are and give them the possibility of teleworking with their central administration, thanks precisely to eGovernment.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). - Mr President, again I would like to compliment Mrs Ţicău, who gave a tremendous summary of where we need to go in this area and how we should get there.

We are talking about a market, and there are three adjectives associated with it in the title: competitive, digital and single. They are all equally important. Certainly in relation to e-government as a spearhead, there are great opportunities there in terms of e-justice, e-customer services, e-governance, e-health and also, of course, the possibility of developing e-commerce.

It is a sad fact in many ways that 75% of SMEs do not trade outside the European Union and 87% do not trade outside their own country. So the potential is vast. But as my colleague, Jean-Pierre Audy, pointed out, the most important thing to establish is high-speed broadband across the European Union. Then we can create a competitive digital and single market.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE).(RO) Mr President, the European eGovernment Action Plan offers an opportunity to revamp European and national administrations by significantly cutting costs and encouraging growth, innovation and mobility at regional level. The role of ICT in local and regional public administration helps increase transparency and accountability to citizens, while reducing administrative burdens and costs. In some Member States it actively removes the barriers preventing administrative reform. e-government entails improving and making administrative procedures flexible. A set of rules needs to be produced as a priority at different levels of administration regarding certain criteria for the public procurement system, standardising and defining the legal capacity of digital signatures and for implementing e-government cloud platforms. We have implemented cross-border projects whose implementation has often been hindered by technological constraints or by the lack of coordination between neighbouring countries. This is why I insist on the need to develop interoperable cross-border services in the area of ICT. I congratulate the rapporteur for the excellent report she presented.

 
  
 

(End of catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Janusz Lewandowski, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, the report on e-government by Mrs Ţicău is very important and timely and rightly places e-government in the context of a digital agenda and the 2020 strategy.

We agree that e-government is a window of opportunity to modernise and simplify the public sector and make it more cost-efficient as well as user-friendly. Mrs Ţicău, you rightly underline in your report the strength of the ICT sector in Europe, which contributes, as mentioned, 5% of GDP of the European Union market value of EUR 660 billion. It also contributes 50% of overall productivity growth, which is also important.

We can therefore imagine the potential of this digital market if it could be completely free of barriers. At the moment, both citizens and businesses face many barriers when accessing public services online in another country. This is mainly the responsibility of the Member States. However, in order to enhance the action plan by 2015, the Commission will table a pan-European framework for electronic identification, authentication and signatures at the level of European cooperation by June 2012. This will, firstly, address the issue of interoperability and usability and, secondly, remove the barriers. It will also to address the new requirements: new trusted services and the mutual recognition of and acceptance of electronic identification and signatures.

We take note of – and, what is more, we support – your efforts to make e-invoicing predominant in Europe by 2020. However, we should take account of the requirements of small and medium-sized enterprises within the consistent regulatory framework. We also take note of your ambitious call to the Member States to make e-invoicing mandatory in public procurement by 2016.

Last but not least, funding is needed for the future in the areas of electronic identification, e-procurement, e-justice and e-health, and it should be provided primarily by the Connecting Europe Facility. In order to achieve all this, we need cooperation. The goal is a modern, user-friendly digital single market in Europe.

 
  
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  President. - This item is closed.

The vote will take place on Friday, 20 April 2012 at 12:00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  András Gyürk (PPE), in writing.(HU) Due to the rapid development of information technology we are transacting an increasingly large share of our business over the Internet or by mobile phone. It is welcome that several Member States have recently begun to make use of technological innovations in the field of government services. It has become increasingly clear to decision-makers that the use of electronic government services represents a major improvement for both EU citizens’ quality of life and the efficient operation of Member State public administration. Electronic administration has also become more prevalent in Hungary over the past few years. Hungary’s example has provided practical confirmation for one of the main points of the report, namely that citizens can save time and money through flexible and fast online administration. Online customer portals allow us to transact our business from home or from the office, sparing ourselves hours of administration and a myriad of forms. The introduction of e-governance is supported not only by the citizens but also by the business sector, because it greatly diminishes administrative burdens, thereby enhancing the productivity of enterprises. That said, the greatest beneficiary of the proliferation of electronic administration is the public sector. This is because electronic governance increases the efficiency of data management, while reducing operational costs and errors. Despite good Member State examples and initial success, however, we cannot sit back and relax, because the development of information technology is opening up new avenues for improving efficiency.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D), in writing. (SK) In 2010, the European Commission adopted the 2020 strategy, which aims to create smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. One of the seven initiatives for this European growth is the Digital Agenda for Europe. The primary goal of the Digital Agenda is the most effective use of ICT and the creation of innovative eGovernment. According to our data, more than 65% of the EU population regularly uses the Internet. Broadband coverage has reached 95.3%. The average accessibility of online public services achieved in 2010 was 82%. I would therefore like to draw your attention to the need to include educational institutions and the use of educational software in these programmes. One of the main challenges is to address the digital literacy of EU citizens, because limited literacy is the greatest obstacle to the full and effective use of the available technology.

 
  
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  Olga Sehnalová (S&D), in writing. – (CS) The successful implementation of eGovernment will facilitate communications between public administration authorities and citizens and businesses, while also involving the public more in the democratic process of policy making, through transparent public consultations. Unfortunately, there are still groups of citizens, for example pensioners, who lack sufficient access to online services, and for them eGovernment services will therefore be hard to access. Although citizens over 65 years of age have been the fastest growing group of Internet users in recent years in my own country, they still account for just 13% of citizens. We should therefore try to ensure that the use of these services does not lead to a deepening of the digital divide and of social differences, but rather to the positive benefits mentioned earlier. Education plays a key role, in my opinion. We must improve literacy and the access of citizens to information and communications technologies, and ensure that all social groups can make use of eGovernment services on a genuinely large-scale basis. Only thus will we make full use of the considerable potential for developing online services in a digital Europe. At the same time, however, we must not forget those who will always have very limited access to - and links with - the Internet, and we must not, in this context, allow the emergence of a group of citizens who are stuck in an information and communications vacuum.

 
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