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Parliamentary question - E-7553/2010(ASW)Parliamentary question

Answer given by Mr Šefčovič on behalf of the Commission

The Commission would like to highlight that it is a firm believer, and one of the leading organisations in, the area of interoperability worldwide. The Commission already passed the phase of experimenting with the use of Open Source Software (OSS) inside its services, as stated on numerous occasions in the past (e.g. in its reply to previous Written Question E‑1487/08 by Mr Cappato and Mr Pannella[1]).

Within the context of the use of free software by public administrations in Europe, the Commission, under the IDABC Programme[2], has created the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR)[3]. Via this platform, information on the use of free software by public administrations in Europe is made available to all interested parties (the observatory) and a collaborative platform (the repository) is created, allowing public administrations to work together to create free software to support their policies and administrative processes and to make such software available to others for re-use. The Commission has also created a European open source licence, the European Union Public Licence (EUPL)[4]. This licence is used, among other things, by the Commission to distribute software developed for and owned by it. The licence, which exists in all the languages of the European Union, is made available to public administrations as an alternative to existing open source licences (that are mostly available only in English and do not necessarily reflect the European legal practice).

Furthermore, for nearly 10 years the Commission published at regular intervals its strategy for the internal use of OSS. In actual fact, the Commission is now reviewing the current version of its strategy document, which will be re-published once it is updated.

As a main result of the abovementioned strategy for internal use of OSS in the Commission, Information Technology (IT) solutions based on OSS are also considered in the context of IT procurement. Contracts are awarded on a value-for-money basis, taking into consideration not only licence costs but also other costs such as setup, maintenance, support and training.

Indeed, the Commission uses a carefully selected combination of OSS and proprietary products. Many examples, involving in particular the use of OSS products in critical areas, can be provided to illustrate this:

Whenever an information technology solution is to be shared by the Commission with other partners, such as European Public Administrations, the OSS products are the preferred choice, ensuring maximum reusability at all levels. In this context, the contribution of the Commission, the source code developed internally or further customisations are licensed under the EUPL, guaranteeing the ‘freedom’ of the software.

In the area of scientific research, to which the Honourable Member refers, the Commission supports explicitly the development of technologies for OSS. As a matter of fact, this is clearly stated in the research work programmes 2009‑10 and 2011‑12.

In the ‘software and services’ area, the majority of research projects release deliverables with open source licences, and some projects provided solutions which are now widely used outside the research world (e.g. the services included in Debian Linux distribution which have been developed by Mancoosi, an EU‑funded project). It is useful to remark that UNU-MERIT, author of the mentioned 2007 study, is a partner in EU‑funded research projects since the 6th Framework Programme or FP6 (e.g. projects Qualoss, FlossInclude, TClouds, and Decoder).

OJ C 243 E, 20/08/2011