On the structure of the FSF Europe

Georg C. F. Greve greve at gnu.org
Fri May 11 20:05:15 UTC 2001


one of the points that has been raised on the discussion list recently
was the structure of the FSF Europe. Apparently there were still some
misconceptions, so I would like to try to set them straight.

Although I don't know where this misinformation came from, some people
seem to think the FSF Europe was non-democratic.

The FSF Europe is a democratic association, all positions are elected
in two-year terms and there are democratic means to remove people from
office should things go really wrong. The highest organ of the FSF
Europe is the general assembly.

It is our fault that the constitutions aren't online yet, so you
cannot see for yourself right now, but I wanted to let you know about
this right now before the misconception spreads.

Albeit being democratic, the FSF Europe is not completely open just
like the FSF isn't. There is a reason for this.

The FSF has always only spoken for itself and its understanding of
Free Software. By being independant from the masses, it could maintain
positions that were even unusual or too advanced for the community at
the time. 

Just remember the KDE situation a few years ago. The majority of the
community did not consider it a problem that Qt was proprietary and
were against trying to do anything about that. Had the FSF not been so
insisting, we would not have GNOME today and Qt would most likely
still be proprietary.

Also it is necessary to prevent a philosophic dilution of the FSF
Europe, something that might easily happen if it were entirely open
and people from the "Open Source bandwagon" decided to join. We have
talked about this with Richard Stallman and he would not have admitted
us as the acknowledged European sister organization hadn't we taken
precautions against this.

The initial core team were people chosen in agreement with RMS to
consist of people that he trusts to maintain what is the true free
software spirit as he sees it.

Now new members are appointed by 3/4 election of the existing members

Being a member of the FSF Europe means that the public watches you
_very_ carefully - which is as it should be. But it is also a big
burden at some times. We cannot take just any job, we must always be
careful what to say and we are personally bound to the FSF Europe to a
very high extent.

This is how it ought to be, but it can only be maintained if the
amount of members is kept small. Therefore we try to find 2-3 people
From every country that have truly understood free software and the
FSF and that are willing and capable to bear such a high
responsibility and make this commitment.

At the same time we'd like to see everyone involved.

So we invented the "associated" status for organizations. The
associate organizations are (theoretically) entirely open and can be
joined by everyone. 

Also they are very often older than the FSF Europe and have already
been performing well in their areas as grassroot organizations like
APRIL in France. Through association with the FSF Europe these
organizations can be linked with each other and work together for our
common goals on the European level.

Members of the associate organizations can enter the
<country>@fsfeurope.org mailing lists where we discuss the more
confidential things that should not be made entirely public at the

By joining such an associate organization you can chose to become part
of the more confidential loops immediately.

If you just "want to get some things done" and get involved in
specific tasks like the web pages, you could do so directly via

If you have another idea how to help free software and the FSF Europe,
please feel free to tell us about it and we'll be glad to support and
work with you as much as we can.

Several people already do participate this way and we are glad about
every single one of them.

For things that can be discussed in public we have the entirely open
discussion list.

That way everyone can participate in the FSF Europe while getting
practically as much (or as little) involved as (s)he wants.


Georg C. F. Greve                                       <greve at gnu.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (http://fsfeurope.org)
Brave GNU World	                           (http://brave-gnu-world.org)
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