Citizens’ data should flow freely across the nation states of the European Union, a new declaration from the 28 EU countries has said.

Agreed last week at the EU e-Government Summit in Tallinn, Estonia, the declaration sets out a ‘Once Only principle’ that if citizens provide data to one country, they should not need to give it to another EU nation when using digital services.

This applies to identity data such as date of birth and biometrics, as well as company information such as taxation and registration details.

Minister Urve Palo, representing the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council, told GovInsider that the Tallinn Declaration means that “state authorities should transfer information by themselves without troubling people.” EU countries have set themselves a 5 year deadline for this to occur.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission, told GovInsider that “if people submit their information to business registers in one country and would like to take part in an open tender in another country, why should they have to print out some kind of documents? Why is it so complicated for these business registers to communicate with each other?”

The nations will also commit to eprocurement systems, Ansip told GovInsider. “Our aim is to introduce e-procurement all over Europe.” He said that Sweden saved 20% of its costs by implementing eprocurement, while Portugal saved 18% of its hospital expenditures.

This is reliant on “mutual recognition of digital identity systems”, he added.

India saved $8bn per year by introducing a common digital identity system, he noted. “If such cooperation is possible elsewhere, why shouldn’t it be possible in Europe?”

“All solutions offered by the government must be digital. All data must be public and available for everyone to use. All solutions nowadays must be cross-border – it is not sufficient when people in one country cannot make good use of these principles”.

The Tallinn Declaration is not currently mandatory. “It was in the declaration that we should go further with identification,” Palo said. While it is currently not mandatory, “I guess it should be, at the end of the day,” she noted.