The European Dimension of GIS

With the increasing integration of society and economy in the European Union, purely regional or national approaches often make no sense, and a wider view is required. The EuroGIS module provides a fundamental overview of issues of geoinformation in Europe. Key information on how Europe works and which organisations and institutions are relevant on the EU level is provided. European datasets and projects are analysed, and European initiatives such as Galileo and Copernicus are assessed. Practical work introduces into finding of and working with European datasets e.g. in the context of Copernicus.Important policy developments related to GI are explored, and strategies to make geodata available at the European level, such as INSPIRE, are addressed.

03 February 2020
22 June 2020
12 October 2020

The European Dimension of GIS – Registration

October 12 - January 4, 2021

3 months



The module is free of charge for UNIGIS students working to meet their elective subject requirements. Included are:

  • all related study materials
  • supervision and assessment
  • module accreditation according to the curriculum

ClubUNIGIS members can register at a price of € 300,-. Included are:

  • all related study materials
  • supervision and assessment
  • course certificate upon completion of the module

  • explain the difference between national and European GI requirements
  • identify issues of and challenges faced by European GI
  • provide an overview of the European “GI theatre” (actors, organisations, institutions)
  • analyse cross-border issues and challenges connected with them
  • explain key aspects and components of European coordinate reference systems
  • describe the role, structure, and status of the INSPIRE process
  • explain principles of satellite navigation and the structure and status of Galileo#
  • explain the role of remote sensing and the structure and status of Copernicus
  • use Copernicus data
  • list important European data layers
  • explore and evaluate European (meta-)data portals
  • explain important European legislation related to GI

– at least basic knowledge of GI science and GI technology
– basic familiarity with spatial interoperability and spatial data infrastructure

– course language: English
– introductory lessons (in PPT) accompanied by links to external documents
– additional material for “hungry minds”
– exercises for practical exploration and application of the lesson content
– open discussion in course panel (depending on student’s readiness)

ArcGIS online or QGIS

– 6 assignments related to the lesson content
– partly in form of essays, partly practical work
– grading according to UNIGIS standards

Lesson 1 – Intro – The European Dimension of GI
We get first insight into the European aspects of GI. Using a practical example, we see in which cases a purely regional/national approach to tackle problems makes no sense, and why a wider view is required. We check the multiple dimensions of the terms “Europe” and “European”, and see how Europe works. Then we explore the role and first specific issues of GI at the European level.

Lesson 2 – Organizations and Institutions 
We focus on the main institutional and organisational components that deal with and are responsible for GI in Europe. We start with a presentation of some types and categories of organisations within Europe and a short overview of the key GI players in Europe. We go into some detail with respect to institutions and associations playing an important role in the public and private sectors.

Lesson 3 – Crossing Borders
Historically seen individual countries and organisations have always created their own cartographic datasets, with their own standards in terms of formats, projection systems, and classification, mostly with only incomplete metadata. We explore where the integration of the European Union requires the integration of this kind of data and which problems can be expected in this process.

Lesson 4 – Spatial Reference Systems
For centuries national reference systems have been sufficient in the field of mapping and surveying. Based on national requirements and capabilities, they use optimal ellipsoids for the national situation. The increasing integration of life in Europe at all levels has made common European standards necessary; this is true also for spatial reference systems and projections.

Lesson 5 – INSPIRE
The INSPIRE directive issued by the European Commission in 2007 is one of the key elements of geoinformation in Europe. We explore the vision behind INSPIRE. The lesson covers the main goals, basic documents and the implementation mechanisms within INSPIRE. We assess how it reflects the components of an SDI and look beyond “now” and try to analyse where this development will lead us to.

Lesson 6 – Galileo – European Satellite Navigation System 
Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have become a key component of our information and communication environment. Due to their importance, Europe has developed the satellite navigation system Galileo, one of the two flagship European programmes with respect to geo-information. We explore the world of GNSS and the structure of Galileo, its applications and current status.

Lesson 7 – Remote Sensing
Satellite remote sensing (Earth observation, EO) and the geoinformation it produces have properties that make them unique: trans-national, “objective”, homogeneous geodata of large areas with the same level of detail, which is important at the European level. Space industry is a key industry with respect to the scientific and technical progress. We check European EO players and their activities.

Lesson 8 – Copernicus – Overview
The Copernicus initiative focuses on identifying and analysing the problems of applying and accessing geographical information in the field of environment and security. The goal of Copernicus is to implement a range of instruments that can be used by European stakeholders. We explore the background of the initiative, its components and examples of services developed within this framework.

Lesson 9 – European Information Layers
Decision-making at the European level requires accessible, compatible, useable and relevant geographic information. In many cases cross-border needs for geodata are still answered on an ad-hoc basis, integrating available data. However, there is an increasing number of pan-European datasets available. We have a look at some important datasets and check which potential (and restrictions) they have.

Lesson 10 – Searching through European Data
Geographic information is of no use if it cannot be found. Online geodata catalogues aim at providing hopefully timely and accurate information regarding GI data. We look at geoportals (also known as data clearing houses) and spatial data infrastructures integrating metadata and data shops. We learn about aspects important in the context of geodata search using European geodata portals.

Lesson 11 – Working with Copernicus
The Copernicus initiative has made a wealth of data and services available, providing information for a large number of application fields. The world of Copernicus information is getting increasingly complex, providing access to data and services via differing paths. We explore possibilities to access and use Copernicus data and services and look at ways to use them for specific applications.

Lesson 12 – European content projects
Where do “European Data” come from? This question is as important as the compilation of high-quality data that cover the area of Europe. Compiling data usually requires significant efforts with respect to labour and finances. Many datasets supporting tasks of the European Commission have no direct commercial potential and therefore are produced within European content projects.

Lesson 13 – Regional SDIs in Europe
We review the experiences of some regional and national spatial information strategies in Europe. Different aspects are assessed: the organisation coordinating the SDI, the mechanism for accessing the SDI, the types of available spatial data and the metadata standard adopted. We explore on-line metadata services, search for spatial data, and evaluate and compare regional and national initiatives.

Lesson 14 – Legal Issues and Policies
The European Union is a complex political and social construction that is based on numerous legal documents. Taking them into account, the effective laws applicable in daily life are formulated in the national legislations. In the context of GI, relevant regulations are spread over a number of policy and legal documents. We check which European documents are most important for GI.

Lesson 15 – Conclusion
During the tour through the European GI we encountered a variety of aspects starting from the question, what “Europe” means. In a wrap-up of the key facts found in the various lessons, giving a overview of their contents, we explore inter-linkages between the quite diverse contents of the module. Based on this summary, we try to look into the future of European GI.