Some thoughts on the EU Commission's data strategy

The European Commission launched yesterday a new European strategy for data, aiming to make the EU into a "leading role model for a society empowered by data." The whole strategy is worth looking into, but I will be focusing my comments in the public procurement angle.

The first implication of the strategy is that common European standards and requirements will be developed for the public procurement of data processing services. It seems that these will not be actually developed by the Commission but that their development will be 'facilitated'. From the Communication one gathers that these will be primarily substantive requirements, ie determining what is being bought instead of how to buy it. However, as the Communication mentions 'requirements' it may well be that the how will be covered too, especially as the Commission will also facilitate the set up of a cloud services marketplace by the end of 2022. This may well be the first example of the Commission showing some movement into designing a tiny bit of the public procurement framework as digital first instead of an adaptation of existing 'analog' approaches.

I have long expressed strong criticisms on the lack of EU standards on electronic procurement and while this criticism is mostly done at the how or procedural aspects of procurement, it is fair to say that until now the same criticism could be levelled at the substantive level too.

Speaking of that particular criticism, it appears the Commission has taken note of it since it will *finally* move to try solving the issues with national/organisational data silos that were created by Directive 2014/24/EU which forced the transition to electronic procurement without establishing common standards that facilitated cross-border transmission of administrative data. That the ESPD and e-Certis have failed thus far appears obvious to me.

Now with the horse bolted, the Commission is proposing three soft law initiatives for the next couple of years:

  • Elaborate a data initiative for public procurement data and creating a procurement data governance framework
  • Issue guidance on common standards/interoperable frameworks for legal information
  • Ensuring data sources related to the implementation of the EU budget are FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable).

It is good to see the Commission addressing *some* of the shortcomings created by the 2014 legal framework but so far my impression remains that this approach will not address the failures of the ESPD/e-Certis in full. As for the adoption of the Open Contracting Data Standard for example, crickets.