Brussels, 28 Jul 2004
Proposal for a
DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing an infrastructure for spatial information in the Community (INSPIRE)
Good policy depends on high-quality information and informed public participation. Policy- makers have recognised the growing interconnection and complexity of the issues affecting the quality of life today, and this recognition is influencing the way new policies are now being formulated. For instance, the Sixth Environment Action Programme (6th EAP)1 emphasises that environment policy needs to be based on sound knowledge and informed participation, and this new approach is transforming the way EU environment policy decisions are being taken.
A new approach is therefore needed to deal with monitoring and reporting and with data management and delivery across the different levels of government. Policies need to be employed to reduce duplicated data collection and to assist and promote the harmonisation, broad dissemination and use of data. Such policies should result in increased efficiency, the benefits of which can be reinvested in improving the availability and quality of information. In turn, the increased availability of information will stimulate innovation among information providers in the commercial sector.
Spatial information can play a special role in this new approach because it allows information to be integrated from a variety of disciplines for a variety of uses. A coherent and widely accessible spatial description of the Community territory would deliver the requisite framework for coordinating information delivery and monitoring across the Community. Spatial information may also be used to produce maps, which are a good way of communicating with the public. Unfortunately, the technical and socio-economic characteristics of spatial information make the problems of coordination, information gaps, undefined quality and barriers to accessing and using the information particularly acute.
The Commission has therefore decided to submit to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union the present proposal to make interoperable spatial information readily available in support of both national and Community policy and to enable the public to access to this information. This initiative derives from the commitment of several Commission services in particular DG Environment, Eurostat and the Joint Research Centre, who have already and will continue to play an important role in the adoption and implementation of this Directive.
2. Overview of the Proposal
The proposed Directive creates a legal framework for the establishment and operation of an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe, for the purpose of formulating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating Community policies at all levels and providing public information.
A key objective of INSPIRE is to make more and better spatial data available for Community policy-making and implementation of Community policies in the Member States at all levels. INSPIRE focuses on environmental policy but is open for use by and future extension to other sectors such as agriculture, transport and energy.
The proposal focuses specifically on information needed in order to monitor and improve the state of the environment, including air, water, soil and the natural landscape. Much of this information needs to be underpinned by "multi-purpose" spatial data. In an infrastructure for spatial information, not all spatial data themes need to be subject to the same degree of harmonisation, nor can they be brought within the infrastructure at the same pace. This Directive therefore contains three distinct annexes, all of which refer to spatial data needed by a broad range of environmental policies. Depending on whether spatial data is to be used for geo-referencing other spatial data, on whether harmonised spatial data is needed within the context of policies that directly or indirectly affect the environment and on the degree to which harmonisation is already underway within the Community, different target dates for implementing INSPIRE requirements and different stringency levels for harmonisation apply. It should be noted that the spatial data themes in the annexes determine only the scope of the directive and of the measures referred to. They do not determine how spatial information should be organised or harmonised.
INSPIRE will not set off an extensive programme of new spatial data collection in the Member States. Instead, it is designed to optimise the scope for exploiting the data that are already available, by requiring the documentation of existing spatial data, the implementation of services aimed at rendering the spatial data more accessible and interoperable and by dealing with obstacles to the use of the spatial data. INSPIRE will pave the road for a progressive harmonisation of spatial data in the Member States.
The main beneficiaries of this proposal will therefore be those involved in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies ­ at the European, national and local level. These are public authorities, legislators and citizens and their organisations. However, other user groups are also expected to benefit, including the private sector, universities, researchers and the media. The proposal will support the formulation and implementation of a wide range of environmental and other policies.