It is widely accepted that the use of common formats greatly facilitates the exchange, access to, and reuse of information. Exploiting new harmonised structures can bring savings in cost and time, and it can help improve the quality of documents. This is particularly true in the case of legal documents, including those produced by the EU institutions.
It is in this context that an idea was born to start working towards the adoption of common formats defining the semantic concepts and structure of EU legal documents through the establishment of the Interinstitutional Metadata and Formats Committee (IMFC).
The mission of the IMFC is to manage the development and maintenance of common interinstitutional standards for machine-readable structured document content and metadata, as well as the secure and automated exchange of this information. Through these standards, the IMFC contributes to the interoperability of related tools and business processes, with a particular focus on the EU law-making process as well as quality and accessibility of the exchanged information.
As part of this endeavour, the EU institutions agreed to adopt a common format for the documents they produce and exchange in the legislative process and have chosen the international Akoma Ntoso XML standard for the mark-up of their content. The implementable specification of this format designed specifically for EU legislation is referred to as "Akoma Ntoso for EU" (AKN4EU).
A precondition for the specification of AKN4EU on technical level is the interinstitutional agreement on business level regarding the semantic concepts that represent the text of the exchanged documents. The interinstitutional collaborative analysis of commonly agreed example documents feeds into the "Common Vocabulary" (CoV), which is a collection of structural concepts that reflect the way users, notably lawyers, translators, proof-readers or policy-makers, refer to the respective documents and their elements. For each concept, there is a definition and, where applicable, business rules: The definitions resolve ambiguity, whereas the business rules specify the correct usage of elements and their hierarchical relations.
The current release of the CoV (version 4.0) available for download from this site was adopted in June 2021.