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EU Open Source Policy: good analysis, missing concrete next steps

EDRi's member, Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), calls upon the Commission to present and implement concrete measures and activities in the coming weeks and months, regarding its Open Source Strategy.

By Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) (guest author) · October 28, 2020

After the Commission’s previous Open Source Strategy expired in 2017, we have been waiting three years for a new one. On 21st October, the European Commission presented its new Open Source Strategy but instead of the hoped-for changes, which would reflect current developments around the debates on digital sovereignty and state of the art administration, the Commission has presented only a fig leaf.

The benefits of Free Software are fully emphasised and the Commission is ambitious in its future use of Free Software. But there is a lack of clear task descriptions and processes, concrete guidelines for the implementation of wholehearted statements and indicators to monitor success. In addition, there are vague statements and loopholes that allow the Commission to continue to sell the current situation as a success.

A failure of the strategy is foreseeable at this stage as the objectives are ambitious but the measures merely establish the status quo. The strategy mainly repeats previous commitments and activities; whereas sustainable and verifiable approaches are sought in vain. Apart from the establishment of a “small (sic!) Open Source Programme Office” and the definition and promotion of the “inner source” approach, which is not even connected to a publication under a Free Software license, there are no real changes to the Commission’s working methods. Additionally, existing problems and how to address them concretely, like dependencies on single vendors, are missing. There are strong dependencies on Microsoft still, for its desktop operating system, office applications and mail programs. These vendor lock-ins are still a big issue, but it appears that there is no plan currently on how to end these dependencies. (There is also a documentary on YouTube in English).

Therefore, Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) calls upon the Commission to present and implement concrete measures and activities in the coming weeks and months. Also it is all the more important that we continue to critically monitor the work of the European Commission and promote FSFE’s “Public money? Public Code!” campaign. The “Public Money? Public Code!” initiative aims to establish Free Software as a standard for publicly funded software. Public administrations that follow this principle can benefit from numerous advantages: cooperation with other government bodies, independence from individual vendors, potential tax savings, promotion of innovation and a more solid basis for IT security. The “Public Money? Public Code!” initiative of the Free Software Foundation Europe is supported by over 180 organisations and administrations from several countries, including Sweden, Spain and Germany.

(Contribution by Alexander Sander, Free Software Foundation Europe)