The implementation of the INSPIRE Directive requires all the Member States to submit progress reports to the Commission on their efforts every three years (Masser and Crompvoets 2015). Two rounds of these qualitative monitoring country reports were submitted in 2010 and 2013 and are available in English on the INSPIRE website (http://inspire.ec.europa.eu/).
The third round of country reports for 2016 is now under way and the first impressions of these reports are very positive. Some 26 out of the 28 reports were submitted on time or by August 2016 (table 1). There are also clear signs that European Environment Agency who took over the handling of these reports during the second round of submissions, and the ongoing activities of the INSPIRE Maintenance and Implementation Group that was set up in 2013, have introduced a much more proactive dimension into these reporting tasks. The best indication of this is the information that seven countries had already submitted action plans setting out their strategies for the period up to 2020 and a number of other plans are also on the way. As there was no formal requirement in the templates that had been submitted to the Member States earlier this to help the preparation of these reports it is clear that significant changes in the monitoring process are under way.
It is far too early to beginning drawing conclusions from the outcomes of this round of reports as only six of them were submitted in English and it will be necessary to wait for several months before a complete set of documents in English is available. This is particularly true for the action plans where only three countries have so far submitted reports in English. Nevertheless the overall impression from this round of submissions is very positive.
Country reports available in English
Some indication of the current situation with respect to INSPIRE implementation can be found from an examination of the country reports that are already available in English (ie. Belgium, Croatia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and the United Kingdom).
Two of the smallest Member States, Luxembourg and Malta, are generally positive about recent developments. The Luxembourg report notes that ‘to deal with the impact of the INSPIRE directive, Luxemburg’s Government has created an interdisciplinary and inter-ministerial task force. This group has gradually increased in membership and importance since its first creation’(p. 4). Consequently, ‘on the technical side, Luxembourg is quite well positioned and is willing to continue doing its best to meet the requirements issued in the Directive.’ However it also points out that ‘the small size of the country has to be considered as a disadvantage though, as the smallest country has to fulfil the same needs as the larger countries’ (p.36).
The Maltese report notes that ‘the administrative and technical implementation of the Directive is largely driven by the existing ICT governance structures of MITA (Malta Information Technology Agency) and involves various public authorities that contribute in the implementation of the directive’ ( p.6). As a result, ‘considering the small size of t he country and the limited resources available, Malta has made noticeable progress in the implementation of the INSPIRE Directive. These include the registration of the MSDI with the EC INSPIRE geoportal, implementation of the network services, identification of additional public authorities that contributed in the sharing of data, identification of datasets, upgrade of the MSDI, provision of measures to facilitate data sharing, achievement of fully INSP IRE com pliant metadata and ongoing initiatives and commitment to make the dataset compliant to INSP IRE implementing rules.’ (p24).
The report from Slovenia explains that ‘the last changes to the composition of the INSPIRE project group happened in 2013, at which point the responsible administrative body for the land survey was the Ministry for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning. The group is a strategic body authorised to steer the measures for sharing spatial datasets and services related to spatial data and to implement the INSPIRE Directive in practice (p.5). As a result, Slovenia has ‘All this gives us a good starting point for further work on the establishment of a high quality spatial data infrastructure in Slovenia. The implementation of the tasks foreseen in the eSpatial program are included in the operational program for the next financial perspective 2014-2020 which ensures some European financial funds. A lot of hard work and harmonisation efforts still lie ahead of us, but at the same time this will provide opportunities to open new fields of operation of the Slovenian public administration’(p.34).
As might be expected from a country that did not become a member of the European Union until May 2013, it is still early days for Croatia with regard to INSPIRE implementation. Nevertheless, ‘the developed NSDI functions rather well and includes a strong governance structure for coordinating and organizing the NSDI. Many relevant coordinating bodies and stakeholders (NSDI-Subjects) are involved with clear roles and responsibilities. Moreover, several measures have been implemented to facilitate the sharing of spatial datasets and services (e.g. national geoportal, several registers, etc.)’ (p.5).
Belgium’s report highlights problems facing countries with a federal structure. ‘There is no umbrella infrastructure in Belgium. Such an infrastructure will be phased in for Belgium as soon as the reference data have been indicated. The national geoportal providing access to the federal geoportal and each of the three regional geoportals (for the Walloon, the Flemish and the Brussels region) will become active during Q2-Q3 2016. Within Belgium, the four sub-units have made big leaps in the development of their GDI, but differences remain.’
Nevertheless, ‘the past three years have seen a tremendous progress in the development of the geographical data infrastructure in Belgium’ (p.61) even though it ‘does not see INSPIRE as an independent infrastructure for spatial information, but as a useful element in the ongoing development of common public sector eGovernance’ (p.6). Consequently, Belgium takes a realistic view of the future, ‘whilst progress has been made, a considerable amount of work remains to be done. We applaud the pragmatic and open approach of the commission and clearly express our intention to continue the open and cooperative spirit of the Maintenance and Implementation Work Group in the Belgian Action Plan’ (p. 6) (see below).
In contrast to the other reports the United Kingdom report is much shorter than all the other reports and its tone is decidedly grumpy. It makes it clear that in future ‘business cases will have to be made and benefits will have to be proven before action is taken. INSPIRE is perceived to be a burden by those mandated to publish data. The UK will be ‘burden reduction’ focused and will take action only where real benefits to the UK can be guaranteed (p.12), even though ‘the UK is in a good position but it is very resource constrained’ (ibid).
Action plans available in English
At the present time only three action plans are available in English for three countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Luxembourg. These vary considerably in terms of length and detail. The most fully developed is Belgium which is 20 pages in length whereas the Luxembourg action plan is only three pages long. The main Czech action plan is only five pages long but it is accompanied by several files of details. The other four action plans (together with a road map submitted by Bulgaria) that have been submitted in their original languages also vary in length from 131 pages in length for Portugal to two pages for France.
These action plans are a new and very welcome development with respect to INSPIRE implementation and are consequently discussed in more detail despite the small numbers involved. The Belgian action plan gives a good account of the reasoning behind these activities.
‘The Commission notes that the implementation of the INSPIRE Directive in the majority of Member States does not proceed smoothly. Several deadlines (on the creation of metadata and setting up network services for Annex I data) have passed. For this reason, bilateral talks were launched in the autumn of 2015 between the Commission and the Member States. On October 7, 2015 a meeting was held between Belgium and the Commission. ‘The major discussion points of the bilateral meeting with Belgium were There are missing datasets resorting under Annex I, II and III. What are the plans regarding data harmonization? Metadata and network services are missing for several datasets. OR, if they are available they are not always implemented along the INSPIRE guidelines. What are the (remaining) barriers to data sharing and what can be done about it.
The Belgian action plan also pays tribute to the work of the Maintenance and Implementation working groups that were set up in 2013. This is particularly evident in the Belgian action plan which states that ‘we would like to stress the cooperative spirit in which the implementation roadblocks of the INSPIRE directive have been solved up to date through the maintenance and implementation workgroup. We explicitly wish this cooperative spirit to extend towards the coming years and are prepared to do our utmost for this to happen. We are confident that the commission also subscribes to this view’ (p.1).
The action plans contain considerable detail about future developments. For example, Luxembourg’s action plan concludes that ‘This detailed assessment not only produced this plan, but also helped set budgets and an improved list of INSPIRE related data sets, used in the 2016 monitoring, delivered with this document. As indicated in the report, an extra budget has been set aside in 2017 to account for the supplementary tasks in the action plan.’
Similarly the Czech report states that ‘The obligation of making priority data sets available has been communicated to all the relevant data providers, also several “face to face” meetings have been organised. These data providers are aware of their duties at the moment. Many of them have already made their data available since the beginning of 2016. The “mid-year” check of fulfilment of the agreed commitments is planned, as well as continuous support of data providers requiring technical assistance. Technical working groups under Coordination Committee will be in charge of this check and support (TWG for metadata, data and services).
At the outset it was emphasised that these impressions of the 2016 round of country reports are based on a very small sample of the reports and action plans that will eventually be made available by the Member States. Nonetheless, they already show signs of some new and interesting developments with respect to INSPIRE implementation. Consequently it should be well worthwhile to keep watching this space for more information about these matters over the next few months.
Masser, I. and, J. Crompvoets, 2015. Implementing INSPIRE in the member states in Building European Spatial Data Infrastructures, Third edition, Redlands CA: Esri Press.
Table 1: State of Play. August 2016
|Country Code||Country||Country reports||Pages||Action plans||Pages|
|CZ||Czech Reoublic||y n||31||y*||5|
|UK||United Kingdom||y y||12||n|
y = submissions. * = in English. n = not submitted.
Note: Some Member States have individual agreements with the Commission about the deadlines for submission of their action plans
Ian Masser is Emeritus Professor with the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, while Joep Crompvoets is a Professor with the Public Governance Institute at KU Leuven in Belgium
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