Accelerating the digital transformation of governments in the EU — 2016-2020 action plan



European Commission communication (COM(2016) 179 final) — EU eGovernment action plan

Article 197 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)

Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union


Since 2005, the European Commission has adopted EU eGovernment action plans in order to advance the agenda of public sector modernisation across the EU. They aim to support European coordination, collaboration and joint actions on eGovernment.

The latest action plan aims to provide support to administrative processes, improving service quality and increasing efficiency by making full use of digital technology. It also aims to reduce administrative burden on businesses and citizens by making interactions faster, more convenient and cheaper, leading to further economic and social benefits for society as a whole.

Under Article 197 TFEU, the EU may support the efforts of EU countries to improve their administrative capacity to implement EU law.

Under Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, every person has the right to:


The action plan is guided by the vision that by 2020, public administrations and institutions in the EU should be open, efficient and inclusive, providing borderless, personalised, user-friendly, digital public services to all citizens and businesses.

Innovative approaches are used to design and deliver better services in line with the needs and demands of citizens and businesses. Public administrations use the opportunities offered by the new digital environment to facilitate their interactions with all interested parties and with each other.

This action plan aims to join up the efforts being made to remove existing digital barriers to the Digital Single Market. It does not have a dedicated budget, but helps to coordinate resources available to EU countries through various EU programmes. Initiatives within the plan are based on these principles:

The 20-point action plan is organised in 3 pillars, and gives a target date for each action to be completed.

Pillar I: Modernising public administration with ICT

Actions in this pillar aim to improve efficiency and effectiveness of public administrations, still crucial in the current economic climate and context of budget austerity, by using key digital tools:

1. In 2019: support the transition of EU countries towards full e-procurement and use of contract registers.

2. In 2016: accelerate the take-up of eIDAS services.

3. In 2018: ensure the sustainability of digital services infrastructure across borders.

4. In 2016-2019: present a revised version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) and support take-up by EU countries.

5. In 2017: coordinate the development of a prototype for a European Catalogue of ICT standards for public procurement.

6. In 2016-2019: gradually introduce the ‘digital by default’ and ‘once-only’ principles, e-invoicing and e-procurement and assess possible implementation of the ‘no legacy’ principle.

Pillar II: Enabling cross-border mobility with digital public services

The past years of benchmarking, eGovernment show intra-EU services lagging significantly behind national services and that the availability and quality of services on offer to non-residents is inadequate. Studying in another country, for instance, may still include paper application processes and face-to-face meetings before enrollment.

Actions in this pillar aim to facilitate mobility and access to digital public services across borders for citizens and businesses in an interoperable EU:

7. In 2017: submit a proposal for a Single Digital Gateway.

8. In 2016: make the European e-Justice Portal a one-stop information shop.

9. In 2017: mandatory interconnection of all EU countries’ business registers.

10. In 2019: further develop the electronic interconnection of insolvency registers.

11. In 2017: present an initiative for digital solutions throughout a company’s life-cycle.

12. In 2016: extend the Single Electronic Mechanism for registration and payment of VAT.

13. In 2016: launch a pilot on the Once-Only Principle for business.

14. In 2018: establish a single reporting mechanism in maritime transport and digitalise transport e-documents.

15. In 2019: complete the setup of the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information.

16. In 2017: further develop the EURES European Job Mobility Portal.

17. In 2016-2018: support EU countries to develop eHealth services across borders.

Pillar III: Facilitating digital interaction with citizens and businesses

Actions in this pillar aim to improve the take-up of digital public services by citizens and businesses. This is meant to improve the user experience through, for example, personalisation, while respecting privacy and data protection. This may be achieved by engaging users themselves in the design, production and delivery of public services.

Some of the most impactful actions include the roll-out of electronic identification and trust services (eIDAS services), the implementation of the once-only principle and re-use of the digital service infrastructure building blocks for cross-border public services. Some actions specifically address the Commission’s own digital transformation.

Actions in this pillar include:

18. In 2019: assess applying the once-only principle for citizens across borders.

19. In 2016-2020: accelerate use of the INSPIRE Directive data infrastructure.

20. In 2018: transform EU websites to encourage participation of citizens and businesses in programmes and policy.

Further actions may be needed to achieve these objectives, and to adapt to the rapidly changing technological environment.

The Commission has also set up an eGovernment Action Plan Steering Board, composed of EU country representatives, to coordinate the effective implementation and monitoring of the Action Plan as well as assess and select new actions.

Although the plan will not have its own dedicated budget, it will receive funding from various EU programmes. Where the funding comes from the EU’s structural and investment funds, the funding is conditional on the countries in question complying with the EU’s economic governance procedures.


The digital transformation of government facilitates businesses’ interaction with public administrations across the EU, so they can easily tap into new markets. It also reduces the administrative burden for citizens who want to live, work, study or retire in another EU country.

Digital public services are crucial to reducing administrative burdens on citizens and businesses by making their interactions with public authorities faster, more convenient and less costly.

The eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 aims to address the problems faced by citizens, businesses and public administrations through the strategic objectives set out in the Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe:

Dynamic Action Plan

The mid-term evaluation of the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 recommended that the current Action Plan move away from being a 5-year, static initiative to a more flexible and iterative approach. The dynamically evolving eGovernment Action Plan is supported by a digital engagement platform is called eGovernment4EU. It collects concrete ideas for action from all interested parties.In the Digital Single Market Midterm Review 5, new actions were already added to the Action Plan, but new actions can still be added to the Action Plan.

Beyond the Action Plan

The 2017 Tallinn Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment represents a strong political commitment by European countries (from the EU and EFTA) to further accelerate the digital transformation of government in line with the principles of the eGovernment Action Plan. While it recognises the role of the EU’s 2016 eGovernment Action Plan in this transformation, it calls for laying the basis for further digital evolution and joint actions beyond 2020 by spreading digitisation across all policy areas and ensuring end-users are the focus of services.

For more information, see:


Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part three — Title XXIV — Administrative cooperation — Article 197 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 136)

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Title V — Citizens’ rights — Article 41 — Right to good administration (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 401-402)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 — Accelerating the digital transformation of government (COM(2016) 179 final, 19.4.2016)

last update 03.04.2018