EC changes the openess concept in the draft eGov EIF

By EDRi · December 2, 2009

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Deutsch: [Europäische Kommission ändert Offenheitskonzept im Entwurf des eGov EIF|]

A second draft of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) was recently
leaked to the press showing that the European Commission (EC) has decided to
take the side of Business Software Alliance (BSA), a lobby group for
proprietary software vendors.

The first draft of EIF is a document produced in 2004 by the “Interoperable
delivery of pan-European eGovernment services to public administrations,
businesses and citizens” (IDABC) for the European Union.

According to EIF I, open standards are the key in obtaining interoperability
in pan-European eGovernment services. The document defines the open standard
as being a standard that is adopted and maintained by a non-profit
organization the development of which “occurs on the basis of an open
decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or
majority decision etc.).” An open standard needs also to be published with a
standard specification document that “is available either freely or at a
nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it
for no fee or at a nominal fee.” The intellectual property of an open
standard (or part of it) “is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free
basis” and “there are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.”

The EC produced a consultation document and launched a public consultation
between June and September 2008 for a second version of the EIF. The
consultation received 53 comments. The Free Software Foundation Europe
(FSFE) has analysed the new version of the text, showing that the Commission
has based its result practicaly only on the input of BSA ignoring other
opinions from companies, groups and individuals in favour of Open Standards
and Free Software.

“The European Commission must not make itself the tool of particular
interests. The current draft is unacceptable, and so is the total lack of
transparency in the process that has led to this text,” says Karsten
Gerloff, FSFE’s President.

While the first version of EIF considers open standards as key tools for
interoperability, thus strongly supporting Free Software and Open Standards
in the public sector, EIF2 contains only a description of a so called
“openness continuum”, which also includes proprietary specifications.

The new text no longer considers that openness is a key factor for
interoperability in eGoverment services. “While there is a correlation
between openness and interoperability, it is true that interoperability can
be obtained without openness, for example via homogeneity of the ICT
systems, which implies that all partners use, or agree to use, the same
solution to implement a European Public Service” says the new draft.

FSFE has sent a letter to the people in charge of eGovernment in EU member
states that says: “The current text is not a viable successor to version 1
of the EIF. Instead of leading Europe forward into an interoperable future,
it will promote vendor lock-in, block interoperability of eGovernment
services, and damage the European software economy. If adopted, it will be a
testament to the power which is exerted outside democratic and transparent
processes, and will give rise to Euro-scepticism.” The letter includes a set
of 10 recommendations for the improvement of the draft.

A press officer with the Delegation to the European Commission in Washington
stated on 6 November that the document being circulated as “EIF 2.0″ could
not be attributed as an official European Commission document.” It seems the
EC indicated that the text was a document only intended to test public

However, the second draft of the EIF document was discussed in a meeting
between the EC and representatives of the EU Member States on 12 November in
Brussels. According to the German Ministry of the Interior, most member
states at the meeting considered the document a good starting point, “but
there are some points that have to be discussed again, including the
definition of interoperability and open source.”

A spokesman from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs stated the revision
was a major step back from the first version. “We informally said we were
unhappy with it. The government will respond officially once the document is

FSFE: EC caves in to proprietary lobbyists on interoperability (27.11.2009)

European Interoperability Framework for European Public Services (EIF) –
Version 2.0 – (work document in progress) (11.2009)

U Wants to Re-define “Closed” as “Nearly Open” (2.11.2009)

If Not EIF 2.0, Then What? (6.11.2009)