Defining the open standards in the EU Digital Agenda

By EDRi · April 7, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Definition der Open Standards in der Digital Agenda der EU |]

Several French NGOs such as APRIL (the Association for the promotion and
defence of free software)and the consumer group UFC-Que Choisir have
recently voiced their worries related to the wording on open standards in
the Digital Agenda for Europe to be issued on 27 April 2010 by Neelie Kroes,
the European commissioner in charge with digital issues.

For some years now, the European Commission has made efforts to promote
interoperability and open source software. The European Interoperability
Framework (EIF) issued in 2004 supported Open Source Software (OSS) giving a
clear definition of open standards: “To attain interoperability in the
context of pan-European eGovernment services, guidance needs to focus on
open standards. The following are the minimal characteristics that a
specification and its attendant documents must have in order to be
considered an open standard:

The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit
organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open
decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or
majority decision etc.).

The standard has been published and the standard specification document 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 – i.e. patents possibly present – of (parts of)
the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.

There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.”

However, a new working version of EIF was leaked in November 2009 showing a
strange definition of openness: ” There are varying degrees of openness. At
one end of the spectrum are specifications andsoftware promoting
collaboration, that can be freely accessed, reused and shared and that are
considered open. At the other end non-documented, proprietary
specifications, proprietary software and the reluctance or resistance to
reuse solutions. What lies in-between the two ends can be called ‘openness

Letters have been sent to the European Commission by APRIL and UFC-Que
Choisir showing concerns related to the evolution of EIF and the pressure
that is apparently put on commissioner Kroes by Microsoft for the deletion
of open standards and even interoperability from the document.

The last day of March was also celebrated in several places in Europe as the
Document Freedom Day. Activities organized by volunteers in Austria,
Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Romania or Moldova completed the day of grassroots
effort to educate the public about the importance of Open Document Formats
and Open Standards in general.

It remains to be seen whether these voices will be heard and see how the new
version of EIF will look like at the end of this month.

After APRIL, UFC-Que Choisir asks the European Commission to respect the
“free” (only in French, 2.04.2010)

APRIL questions the European Commission on the future of “free” in Europe
(only in French, 30.03.2010)

European Commissiion Communication – A Digital Agenda for Europe – A policy
for smart growth and innovation in a digital society

Open Source and Open Standards under Threat in Europe (03.2010)

Document Freedom Day (31.03.2010)

EU: Threats to open source and interoperability (only in French,

European Interoperability Framework for European Public Services (EIF) –
Version 2.0 (28.11.2009)