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GREEN PAPER ON PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION
IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY


SUMMARY

Public hearing on the Green Paper on Public Sector Information in the Information Society held in Brussels on 25 May 1999

The Public Hearing on the Green Paper on Public Sector Information in the Information Society was held in Brussels on 25 May. In an open atmosphere some 200 representatives from governments, businesses and user organisations were able to exchange views with Commission representatives on the issues addressed in the Green Paper. In his concluding keynote speech Mr Verrue (Director General DG XIII) outlined the follow up actions envisaged.

The Public Hearing, which was chaired by Mr de Bruïne (Director DG XIII/E)), formed the main concluding event of a series of awareness actions undertaken within the broad consultation process regarding the Green Paper on public sector information in the Information Society. This consultation process, which was initiated on 20 January 1999, the day the Commission adopted the Green Paper, is aimed at establishing the widest possible debate amongst the actors concerned, such as governments (at local, regional national and international level), businesses (publishers, software producers, SMEs) and user organisations (privacy groups, consumer organisations). The objective of the Public Hearing was to provide a platform allowing people to express their views on the issues raised in the Green Paper, and to explore possible areas of follow up actions. At the same time participants were reminded of the possibility to submit written contributions to the Green Paper (deadline for replies is 1 June 1999, however also contributions that come in the weeks after this date will be taken into consideration),

The meeting consisted of four sessions: (1) public sector information and addressing citizens' needs (2) the importance of public sector information for European businesses, (3) the public sector in the Information Society, and (4) priority actions in the EU. In order to stimulate discussions, each session was briefly introduced by a Commission representative. Subsequently, the floor was opened for debate. Many participants used this opportunity to stress the importance of the issues addressed in the Green Paper and underlining the need for Commission action in this area.

The discussions clustered around a number of subjects, in particular: possible categorisations of public sector information, pricing, user requirements, education of users, universal service, dataprotection, standards and metadata, fair competition, copyright, reorganisation of public sector bodies and transparency. Many of the participants stressed the need to develop a policy initiative at European level.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Verrue (Director General DG XIII) stressed the importance of the debate that had taken place. He underlined the many complex interests at stake and the need for the Commission to focus on specific European aspects, being (1) exercise of rights granted under the European Treaty, (2) participation of citizens in the European integration process (3) stimulating the European information industry, and (4) advocating future member states to adopt the 'acquis communautaire' in this field. Additionally, he called upon all participants to submit reactions, enabling the Commission to take further action. In this context, Mr Verrue said that the Commission will produce a synoptic communication, highlighting the input received and providing details on (1) possible areas of action of common interest and (2) possible degrees of consensus for policitical orientations. This communication is expected later this year.

(A more detailed report on the Public Hearing is available)

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