Based on evaluation of the state-of-implementation and the fitness of the Directive for its intended purpose (a so-called REFIT evaluation) in 2016, it was clear that further efforts at all levels and by all actors have to be made over the coming years to close the identified gaps in implementation (against targets) and steer future implementation actions towards maximising the societal and environmental benefits from the INSPIRE Directive. To the date of today there are no easily available pan-European information products within the INSPIRE infrastructure that facilitate EU-level use cases. This impedes the pick-up of the infrastructure at EU-level and beyond the INSPIRE community. The lack of available and/or easy to use products also impacts the availability of end-user applications that satisfy the information needs of users and offer a low-threshold access for a larger public to this European spatial data infrastructure.

Given the significant scope and ambition of the INSPIRE Directive, the implementation process overall would benefit from stricter EU priority setting. This would allocate the limited resources on those issues with highest priority and where tangible benefits for environment policy can be expected. It would also strengthen the cross-border and EU dimension of the INSPIRE Directive implementation because interoperability can only be successful if all partners (EU, national, regional and local administrations) share the same priorities so that we all “pull in the same direction”. As regards priority setting in relation to spatial data covered by the INSPIRE Directive, the following approach, from the EU (reporting) perspective was introduced.  

Figure: Illustrative example on how EU priority setting approach as regards spatial data sets in the use case of reporting can be visualised. 

Any priority setting approach has its intrinsic logic that one area is prioritised over another but that ultimately, step-by-step, all issues get addressed in a systematic and efficient manner. Any EU priorities complement any national and other priorities which are set elsewhere and do not alter in any way the legal obligations set out by the Directive. COM has selected monitoring and reporting under the environmental acquis as a priority use case for the development of a first set of pan-European information products. Based on the evaluation of reporting obligations under the environmental legislation, executed under the framework of the Better Regulation EC initiative, a rolling priority list of datasets related to environmental reporting obligations has been prepared by the EU INSPIRE team (DG ENV, DG JRC and EEA) and discussed with INSPIRE, thematic and reporting communities.

This rolling list of datasets will be further extended in view of tangible information needs to adequately evaluate the effects on the environment of EU environmental legislation and its effectiveness, efficiency and coherence with other pieces of EU legislation. As the scope of the Fitness Check for monitoring and reporting goes beyond the realm of environment, this means that for future development of the list the information needs of other domains can be taken into consideration as well (e.g. Transport, Mobility, Agriculture, Energy, Sustainable Cities …).  This more domain-holistic approach to streamlining these information streams will not only reduce the reporting burden, but will also induce better integrated public eGovernment services. 

Reporting obligations under different directives are to be grouped into usage domains (e.g. Biodiversity & Nature, Point-based pressures …) to optimize the cross-cutting impact of the streamlining exercise. This allows for streamlining across different directives and organisational structures, maximizing the reuse of the resulting spatial information and services. At the same time the INSPIRE maturity and the digital readiness of the involved (reporting) communities need to be assessed and documented in the list as well. This information will allow the EC and EEA to streamline existing reporting processes under the environmental acquis and plan for a feasible transition to INSPIRE eReporting processes, avoiding multiple reporting processes in parallel for long periods in time.    

The list should provide guidance to MS on consistent mapping of reporting obligations and supporting data to INSPIRE spatial objects. This consistent mapping is essential for the development of pan-European data sets. For the moment it is not relevant to start extending INSPIRE models to accommodate all reporting obligations. The concept paper in preparation by ENV and EEA will provide further guidance on the link between INSPIRE and eReporting, the concepts of geospatial data/reporting data/contextual data and the envisaged INSPIRE interoperability/maturity level for eReporting.

The concept of developing information pyramids for reporting obligations is essential to identify the underlying data sets. The reporting data sets in many cases serve a specific purpose and the real reuse of data sets and services will be most apparent at the level of the underlying data sets. To facilitate future harvesting scenarios for eReporting following the “once only” principle, these underlying data sets should be made available under INSPIRE. Once identified these data sets have to be mapped to INSPIRE spatial objects as well. To gain insight in the data flows and processes to produce reporting data sets, the involvement of MS reporting experts is essential. EEA can support this knowledge gathering through their European Topic Centres and Eionet for CDF-related data sets.

Once information pyramids are being developed, the work on identification of data dependencies and core data sets (aka reference data sets) can be extended from reporting data sets (level 1) to the other layers of the information pyramids. This will allow for a higher level of granularity for streamlining of reporting and at the same time will extend the data scope for INSPIRE implementation.  

The first set agreed datasets from the list should be made available “as–is” by MS through the European Spatial Data Infrastructure as soon as possible.