The single digital gateway will help citizens and firms to access information and administrative procedures online, e.g. to apply for study loans or register a car.
A provisional deal struck with the Council on 24 May to set up a single digital gateway, to make it easier to find information, forms and assistance for people moving to or doing business in another EU country, but also for those staying at home, was endorsed by the Internal Market Committee on Thursday, by 33 votes to three, with one abstention.
This European single entry point will be integrated in the “Your Europe” portal, available in all languages. It will provide access and links to national and EU web sites and web pages, in a user-friendly way, to enable users to exercise their rights and comply with their obligations within the single market.
EU member states will be required to grant online access to the most important and frequently used procedures. In “justified exceptional cases of overriding reasons of public interest in the areas of public security, public health or the fight against fraud”, member states may ask the user to appear in person for a procedural step. The information, online procedures and assistance services provided must be of high quality and accessible to users with disabilities. A user feedback tool will also be available.
Marlene Mizzi (S&D, MT), who steered this legislation through Parliament, said: “Today, the Internal Market Committee has achieved an important milestone in improving and easing citizens’ interaction with public authorities through the digitalisation of public services and the completion of the digital single market. The new rules will provide responsive, inclusive, borderless, user-friendly digital public services to citizens and businesses at national and European level.”
“Such services are paramount when people want to move, live or study in another EU country and need to request relative documentation, such as a birth certificate, proof of residence or apply for university or study financing, amongst many others. It is also very relevant for businesses wishing information relating to cross-border activities and procedures.”
“Once only” principle and data protection
The “once only” principle aims to ensure that citizens and businesses are asked to submit information only once to a public administration, which can then be re-used in other procedures, upon the user’s request. The single digital gateway regulation includes provisions to make sure that this principle is implemented in line with the new data protection rules.
The draft regulation still needs to be voted by the full Parliament in an upcoming plenary session (September) and formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers. In order to give national, regional and local administrations time to adapt, the target date for placing all relevant procedures online will be five years after the entry into force of the regulation. However, many procedures are already available online now or will be available before that date.
The single digital gateway proposal is part of the “compliance package”, aimed at enhancing the practical functioning of the EU single market. It builds on several existing schemes, which cover only a few fields, are not always interconnected, suffer from not being well known and are therefore underused.
According to the European Commission, this legislation could help EU citizens save up to 855 000 hours of their time annually and companies could save more than EUR 11 billion per year.