[FSFE PR][EN] EC caves in to proprietary lobbyists on interoperability

Free Software Foundation Europe press at fsfeurope.org
Fri Nov 27 12:38:23 CET 2009

= FSFE: EC caves in to proprietary lobbyists on interoperability = 

  Free Software industry criticises remarks by Commission's Vice
  President Siim Kallas

[Permanent URL: http://www.fsfe.org/news/2009/news-20091127-01.en.html ]

27 November 2009, 12:30 CEST, Berlin, Germany

The European Commission (EC) has given in to the demands of lobbyists
for Microsoft and SAP when it revised a key document on interoperability
between electronic government services. The Free Software Foundation
Europe (FSFE) has analysed the evolution of a new version of the
European Interoperability Framework (EIF), showing that Commission has
based its work on the input of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a
lobby group for proprietary software vendors, and ignored the voices of
a large part of the European software industry. At the same time,
remarks by the EC's Vice President about Free Software point to a
worrying lack of awareness within the Commission.

A draft for a revision of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF)
leaked to the press earlier this month [1]. Whereas the earlier version
of the document strongly supports the use of Free Software and Open
Standards in the public sector, the new text only carries a meaningless
description of an "openness continuum", which absurdly enough includes
proprietary specifications.

FSFE has tracked how key parts of the revised European Interoperability
Framework have evolved over time [2]. A version of the document was the
basis of a public consultation in the summer of 2008. FSFE's analysis
shows in detail how from this basis, the views of the BSA lobby group
have influenced the present draft of the text. At the same time, the
European Commission has ignored comments by 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.

On this background, recent remarks by Siim Kallas, the European
Commission's Vice President in charge of administration, show a worrying
lack of awareness of Open Standards and Free Software in parts of the
Commission. In a high-level press conference [3] on November 19 in
Malmö, Sweden, Kallas said that he considered Free Software a problem
for "business continuity". He likened Free Software to a Wikipedia
article, saying that "in Wikipedia text, you see that there are brackets
and footnotes, that information should be confirmed, or should be
checked [...], and if you use open source, if you use the same logic in
operational things, you must have certainty what will happen next."

FSFE is deeply concerned about these remarks. "Mr Kallas is badmouthing
a whole sector of the European IT economy", says Gerloff. "Either Mr
Kallas is actively hostile to Free Software and Open Standards, or he is
entirely ignorant about them. Both is simply not justifiable in a Vice
President of the European Commission in charge of the EC's

Elmar Geese, Chair of Linux-Verband, a German association of Free
Software businesses with 80 members, shows himself surprised at Mr
Kallas' remarks. "We do not know who advised Mr Kallas to say these
things. To me, this sounds like the propaganda of fear, uncertainty and
doubt from 10 years ago. We invite Mr Kallas to inform himself about the
Free Software industry. I am sure this will change his mind."

Jan Wildeboer, Red Hat EMEA Evangelist, rejects Kallas' remarks.
"Compared to many proprietary alternatives, Free Software shows that it
not only saves money but also delivers high quality solutions. The use
of Free Software in mission-critical environments all over the world is
proof of its quality."

Such statements from the EC give a boost to the critics of the new
version of the EIF. FSFE argues that the original EIF has served well as
a guideline to the European public sector. Even though it is only a
recommendation, it has become an important reference in Europe and
beyond. If it needs to be revised, the new document should improve
interoperability through reliance on Open Standards, rather than promote
proprietary software and specifications. The Commission should go back
to the consultation document and work from there, making sure that this
time comments from all sides are properly addressed.

Red Hat's Wildeboer shares the criticism: "It is good to see that EIFv2
is under more scrutiny now. We need a strong focus on interoperability
based on Open Standards. The leaked draft version shows how a lack of
transparancy can hurt that goal. Now is the time to ask some serious
questions. I fully trust the Commission to reinstate the goals of EIFv1.
Open Standards and Open Specifications are key to interoperability."

FSFE's President Karsten Gerloff argues: "If the Member States of the
European Union want to preserve the credibility of European
institutions, they should reject the current draft of the EIF. Instead,
they should help the Commission to build a better one that puts Open
Standards front and centre."

[1] EIFv2: EC breaks interop, then bows to public protest?
[2] *The analysis: EIFv2* Tracking the loss of interoperability
[3] http://www.se2009.eu/en/meetings_news/2009/11/19/press_conference_the_ministerial_declaration_on_egovernment (Flash)

== What is the European Interoperability Framework ==

  The EIF is a set of interoperability guidelines documents and
  initiatives conducted under the auspices of the IDABC (Interoperable
  Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations,
  Businesses and Citizens) Programme. The EIF supplements the various
  National Interoperability Frameworks in the pan-European dimension.

== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
  the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy.  Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these
  issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving
  people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central
  issues of the FSFE.


== Contact ==

  Karsten Gerloff
  Free Software Foundation Europe
  e-mail: press at fsfeurope.org
  mobile: +49-176-96904298

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