Petition

Open Parliament – Petition to the European Parliament on the implications of ICT lock-in for participative democracy and for competition

The signatories of this petition, representing a Community for Freedom of Choice and Market in the European Union, draw the attention of the Members of the European Parliament to the current situation where the institution’s ICT systems are locked into the products of one vendor, warns about the implications of this for participative democracy and for fair competition, and calls for action to promote Open Standards and Interoperability.

We believe that the current situation, where the European Parliament’s ICT runs on proprietary operating systems and on software that is not interoperable with that of other vendors, where therefore citizens and stakeholder groups wishing to participate in the legislative process are forced to use the products of a single company, is in conflict with the first article of Chapter 1 in the Treaty of the European Union, which stipulates that “…decisions are taken with the greatest possible respect for openness and as near as possible to the citizens.”

A clear and simple example of this is the live web streaming from the European Parliament’s plenary sessions, a service aimed at improving insight into the democratic process, which is currently only available to those using Microsoft’s MediaPlayer. We have also understood that Members of the European Parliament are unable to access documents sent to them in formats adhering to Open Standards, including the ISO standard for electronic office documents, the Open Document Format (ODF) – the primary format for an ecosystem of office productivity applications.

The situation also has implications for competition. EU Public procurement laws are based on the principles of transparency and non-discrimination (Article 23 (8) of Directive 2004/18/EC), yet the lock-in of the European Parliament's ICT to systems based on proprietary, closed formats means that the European Parliament is dependent on a single vendor and that companies cannot freely compete on merit to provide applications and services.

The European Parliament has recently endorsed texts that mandate the compatibility and interoperability of systems in policy fields such as rail transport and satellite radionavigation. The European Parliament clearly recognises the role of interoperability in promoting innovation and competition, and on improving user choice, while reducing technological and industrial risks as well as dependencies. We are confident that once the Parliament has taken the above into consideration, it will take action to improve interoperability between citizens and governments by moving its ICT systems to ones that are based on Open Standards.

We draw the attention of the Members of the European Parliament to Spain, where the regional Government Administration of Extremadura has adopted a Plan for Technology Literacy and Free Software to improve the accesibility of all citizens to the Internet and to IT through open software. We also highlight the Netherlands where the Government has adopted an action plan for the use of Open Standards and Open Source Software in the public and semi-public sector, recognising the democratic imperative of such a move, in addition to the economic and other societal benefits.

This petition is jointly submitted to the European Parliament by OpenForum Europe (OFE), The European Software Market Association (ESOMA) and The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). The signatories are encouraging citizens and other stakeholder groups to publicly support the objectives of the petition.

References:

European railway area: European Railway Agency for interoperability and safety Report adopted by the Parliament: 1st Reading in the Parliament: 29/11/2007 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5424832
Rail transport: interoperability of the Community rail system Report adopted by the Parliament: 1st Reading in the Parliament: 11/12/2007 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5424842

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the deployment and commercial operating phases of the European programme of satellite radionavigation (EGNOS and Galileo) 20.12.2007
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/am/700/700775/700775en.pdf

Plan for Technology Literacy and Free Software in Extremadura: http://www.nccextremadura.org

The Netherlands Action Plan for the use of Open Standards and Open Source Software in the public and semi-public sector: http://appz.ez.nl/publicaties/pdfs/07ET15.pdf