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INSPIRE Data Specification on Administrative Units - Guidelines v3.0.1

Licence: Other
Published on: 09/07/2020

The INSPIRE theme ‘Administrative units’ refers to the division of areas where Member States have and/or exercise jurisdictional rights, for local, regional and national governance, i.e. units at the cadastral parcel level are excluded as well as territorial waters, which are in fact assigned to the INSPIRE themes ‘Cadastral parcels’, ‘Hydrography’ and/or ‘Sea regions’. It does not include related systems such as census districts, post office regions and other sector-specific regions, but it will contain a reference to the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) This data specification establishes a framework for harmonization of spatial data on Administrative units, as defined in the INSPIRE Directive. The product/services specified in compliance to this specification shall contain geometry and attributes of administrative units and boundaries at all levels of national administrative hierarchies of European countries referring to a defined date.


The purpose of this document is to specify a harmonised data specification for the spatial data theme Administrative units as defined in the INSPIRE Directive. Provision of national datasets on administrative units, harmonised according to this data specification and to defined reference dates, is required to facilitate interoperable data exchange of all official administrative units according to the administrative levels as defined within each Member State.

The EU-wide harmonized data of all these administrative units can be seen as a key dataset for any kind of (cross-border) spatial handling, important in operations and management and in geo-referencing of thematic/statistical information, based on linkages to NUTS-codes. This data specification has been derived from the specification of EuroGeographics EBM product which is already used for the Administrative Unit Theme of European Commission’s GISCO reference database, co-leading the INSPIRE initiative on the introduction of a European Spatial Data Infrastructure and for derivation of datasets, publishing maps and for webservices as NUTS, Communes, Sub-communes, Structural Funds, Interreg, Urban Audit and FADN. The European Environment Agency (EEA) is using this dataset to relate their environmental information and indicators to the official defined administrative units in Europe.


INSPIRE data specification on administrative units has been prepared following the participative principle of a consensus building process. The stakeholders, based on their registration as a Spatial Data Interest Community (SDIC) or a Legally Mandated Organisation (LMO) had the opportunity to bring forward user requirements and reference materials, propose experts for the specification’s development, and to participate in reviewing and testing the data specifications. The Thematic Working Group responsible for the specification development was composed of experts from Belgium, Germany, Norway, Poland and Sweden.

Long description

INSPIRE is based on the infrastructures for spatial information established and operated by the member states of the European Union. The directive addresses 34 spatial data themes needed for environmental applications.

To ensure that the spatial data infrastructures of the member states are compatible and usable in a community and transboundary context, the INSPIRE Directive requires that additional legislation or common Implementing Rules (IR) are adopted for a number of specific areas (metadata, interoperability of spatial data sets and services, network services, data and service sharing and monitoring and reporting). These are published either as Commission Regulations or as Decisions.

The Commission is assisted in the process of adopting such rules by a regulatory committee, INSPIRE Committee, composed of representatives of the member states and chaired by a representative of the Commission (this is known as the Comitology procedure).

This INSPIRE data specification on Administrative units theme is to support the following high level use cases:


Filtering data. A user selects regions (e.g. by clicking or entering a name or code).

The geometry of the selected administrative units is used in a query filter when retrieving geographic information (using a download service) or metadata (using a discovery service). This could e.g. be used in verification to identify features located at the border between two administrative units.


Linking thematic information. To provide users with easy and rapid access to comparable thematic information, data providers link their information to the administrative units.


Disaster management. The administrative units that are affected by an environmental phenomenon or disaster are selected.


Boundary based analysis. Verification of data of thematic features located at the boundaries of administrative units. This covers the aspect of edge-matching.


Discovery of unit related data. Search catalogues to discover available data sets with respect to administrative unit geometry or name (or code).


Known implementation

The whole known implementation of Inspire is available at:

History / Key milestones

The Directive 2007/2/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council adopted on 14 March 2007 aims at establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) for environmental policies, or policies and activities that have an impact on the environment.