European public service provision often requires different public administrations to work together to meet end users’ needs and provide public services in an integrated way. When multiple organisations are involved there is a need for coordination and governance by the authorities with a mandate for planning, implementing and operating European public services. Services should be governed to ensure: integration, seamless execution, reuse of services and data, and development of new services and ‘building blocks1. More is said about the aspects of ‘integrated public service provision’ in section 4.3.1.

Focusing here on the governance part, this should cover all layers: legal, organisational, semantic and technical. Ensuring interoperability when preparing legal instruments, organisation business processes, information exchange, services and components that support European public services is a continuous task, as interoperability is regularly disrupted by changes to the environment, i.e. in legislation, the needs of businesses or citizens, the organisational structure of public administrations, the business processes, and by the emergence of new technologies. It requires, among other things, organisational structures and roles and responsibilities for the delivery and operation of public services, service level agreements, establishment and management of interoperability agreements, change management procedures, and plans for business continuity and data quality.

Integrated public service governance should include as a minimum:

  • the definition of organisational structures, roles & responsibilities and the decision-making process for the stakeholders involved;
  • the imposition of requirements for:
    • aspects of interoperability including quality, scalability and availability of reusable building blocks including information sources (base registries, open data portals, etc.) and other interconnected services;
    • external information/services, translated into clear service level agreements (including on interoperability);
  • a change management plan, to define the procedures and processes needed to deal with and control changes;
  • a business continuity/disaster recovery plan to ensure that digital public services and their building blocks continue to work in a range of situations, e.g. cyberattacks or the failure of building blocks.

Interoperability agreements
Organisations involved in European public service provision should make formal arrangements for cooperation through interoperability agreements. Setting up and managing these agreements is part of public service governance.

Agreements should be detailed enough to achieve their aim, i.e. to provide European public services, while leaving each organisation the maximum feasible internal and national autonomy.

At semantic and technical levels, but also in some cases at organisational level, interoperability agreements usually include standards and specifications.

At legal level, interoperability agreements are made specific and binding via legislation at EU and/or national level or via bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Other types of agreements can complement interoperability agreements, addressing operational matters. For example, memoranda of understanding (MoUs), service level agreements (SLAs), support/escalation procedures and contact details, referring, if necessary, to underlying agreements at semantic and technical levels.

Since delivering a European public service is the result of collective work with parties that produce or consume parts of the service, it is critical to include appropriate change management processes in the interoperability agreements to ensure the accuracy, reliability, continuity and evolution of the service delivered to other public administrations, businesses and citizens.

These are recommendations for interoperability governance:

Source: European Interoperability Framework - Promoting seamless services and data flows for European public administrations, COM(2017)134, 23 March 2017, url (Available in the languages of the EU Member States)