EU INSPIREs better geographical info

July 26, 2004

Brussels, 23 July 2004

To improve mapping in Europe, the European Commission is launching the INSPIRE (INfrastructure for SPatial InfoRmation in the European Union) initiative.

A database with consistent geographical information, INSPIRE will support environmental protection policies as well as infrastructure development, agriculture and maritime navigation.

A new Directive proposed today calls on EU Member States to put geographical information on a publicly accessible electronic network and to progressively harmonise it. At present, information on rivers, road networks and other geographical features is collected in an uncoordinated way and based on different methods and specifications, resulting in data gaps and lack of comparability.

Margot Wallström, European Environment Commissioner, welcomed the proposal: "INSPIRE will harmonise geographical information in the EU, which will vastly help us to better plan, implement and monitor environmental measures. It will improve our capability to protect biodiversity, fight pollution and prevent floods and fires. There is a clear need for a common EU approach in this field so we can maximise the use of existing data."

“INSPIRE will provide a framework for translating research and development (R&D) results into operational tools,” Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said. “Well-organised R&D at the EU level is needed to implement our policy agenda, from the Lisbon objective to the Sustainable Development Strategy. European research will also benefit from the initiative as INSPIRE will make geographical databases, essential for scientific and environmental investigations, more readily available."

Sharing data to benefit European citizens and governance

The proposed Directive requires EU Member States to publish geographical information on publicly accessible Internet websites, which will be co-ordinated by the INSPIRE “geo-portal”. Member States will also develop, with the support of the European Commission, common rules for geographical information to gather new, or to update existing, information. The system should be fully operational within 10 years.

INSPIRE will cover themes such as administrative boundaries, road networks, hydrography, land cover, population, risk zones, diseases, and habitats and species.

Both public authorities and the general public will benefit through an increased capability for rapid reaction to natural disasters, more efficient implementation of EU legislation that relies on consistent data and more efficient meteorology.

Today's proposal is the outcome of an Internet consultation with about 180 responses from more than 1,000 stakeholders.

Current problems - example:

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED] This map shows, in centimetres, the differences in elevation levels in Europe from a baseline of 0. The differences are a result of different methods and specifications that countries use to measure heights. For example, there is a difference of 230 cm between Luxembourg (-231) and Germany (+1), which means that one and the same mountain would be 2,30m shorter in Luxembourg than in Germany! (Source: German Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy)

The text of the proposal and more information can be found at:


Item source: IP/04/993 Date: 23/07/2004

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