The EuroGeoNames project: developing a European geographical names infrastructure and services

Ferjan Ormeling

Utrecht University


From September 2007 to February 2009 the EuroGeoNames project intends to realize, funded under the EU e-Contents programme, a virtual Europe-wide geographical names database, in which national geographical names  databases built and kept up to date by National Mapping Agencies will be linked and available for queries. As not all national mapping agencies in Europe have an internet service on which its geographical names can be consulted, this project is expected to have a unifying influence on the present disarray of conceptual, organisational and technical structures according to which geographical names are made available.

To mention, not all countries base their geographical names inventories on the same resolution of sources, this can vary from 1: 500 (Cyprus) to 1:250 000 (Turkey); not all countries collect the same name categories, and there are differences in the definition and therefore in the contents of similar-looking categories. The updating frequency of these geographical names lists varies considerably. The architecture of the names servers is different, different types of institutions approve the names (names boards, scientific institutions or statistical offices or none), there is a wide range in the available metadata, there might or there might not be a direct link between the names database and the topographic/cartographic data, and there are other quality-differences such as in the coordinate precision of the named point features. In some countries the coordinates linked to the names refer to the place of the name on the relevant map series instead of to the named object. Different operating systems and database packages further diversify the digital toponymic landscape in Europe that is also characterized by different versions of the Roman alphabet and the existence of different scripts (Greek and Cyrillic) as well.


In order to make the intended virtual Europe-wide database operational, a common names model has to be worked out, based on a shared vision of the necessary attributes, and a functionality that will enable execution of the envisaged tasks/queries. An European infrastructure and services for the exploitation of the public sector geographical names data sources will be built. The project is based on a preliminary study, during which a survey/ inventory was made; this has been reported upon (SI-EGN Final Report) by BKG and Utrecht University.