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practice EU: Protests over new draft of EU's interoperability instrument

EU: Protests over new draft of EU's interoperability instrument

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Posting Date
12 November 2009
Last Edited Date
13 November 2009
EU Institutions
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A leaked update of a guide for building eGovernment services in the EU, the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), is drawing strong criticism from free software advocacy groups and proponents of interoperability.

The first version of the EIF, published in 2004, gave definitions of open standards and recommended the use of open source software. In the new version of the EIF these references have been omitted. Now the document has a section on openness, writing that "interoperability can also 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."

"The EIF is in danger", says Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). "This new draft is a threat to the interoperability of European eGovernment services, and a recipe to maintain and even increase vendor lock-in."

In a letter sent on 6 November 2009, Gerloff urges the EU member states to make the European Commission withdraw the revision.

On the same day, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) published ten suggestions to improve the draft. It argues for instance for a strong definition of open standards, to prevent patents from making standards incompatible with open source licences such as for instance the European Union Public Licence (EUPL).

According to OpenForum Europe the EU has abandoned its commitment to open standards. In a statement, Graham Taylor, CEO of OpenForum Europe on Monday said: "The drastic changes from the consultation document of 2008 to this document cannot be seen as resulting from the comments submitted through the public consultation, forcing us to conclude either that the Commission has been unduly influenced by pressures outside of the democratic and transparent process or that it is desperate to defend its own legacy procurement choices".

According to the private IT news site, the draft was published by the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs in late October 2009. It quoted a spokesperson for the European Commission who last week denied the document was official. However, a Dutch IT news site, a day earlier had already quoted Serge Novaretti, EIF project officer at IDABC, the European Commission's unit for eGovernment policies, confirming the document. According to Novaretti, the message is still the same, it is just written in another way.


The OSOR earlier reported the EU was to present its new EIF document on 12 November 2009 in Malmö, Sweden. That is not the case, says Karel De Vriendt, Head of the IDABC unit responsible for the OSOR project and the EIF draft. "We have sent a draft to the member states and asked for their comments. It is a draft and as such subject to change before being finalised." 


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