On 26 September, OpenForum Europe together with the Free Software Foundation Europe hosted our EU FOSS policy meeting, which brought together stakeholders from across the EU and policymakers from the EU institutions. We stated our goal for this event – to reinvigorate the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) advocacy in Brussels – already at our Pre-FOSDEM event.
There is a rapid interest in the adoption and use of Free and Open Source Software, both from the market players and within the European Institutions, so we see it as a good time to move towards coordinated, proactive advocacy to share a common understanding of the challenges we face. That is why OFE, together with key FOSS stakeholders across Europe, signed an Open Letter providing Policy Recommendations on Free and Open Source Software.
This letter and our preceding deliberations provided the shared platform, from which we discussed the key steps we need to take. Not just to grow FOSS in Europe, but to make sure that it is correctly acknowledged as a key technology driving the European transformation.
We began the meeting by discussing the transposition process of the Copyright Directive. The challenge at this point is on the one hand to protect the exclusion we achieved for “Open Source Software developing and sharing platforms”, but also to leverage the attention given to this file to educate policymakers of FOSS in the interplay between copyright and our ambitions for a digital Europe. One of our campaign’s most diligent advocates shared the experience in France, and how this process enabled new contacts in Paris.
Other subjects tackled include data portability and public procurement processes and openness of the cloud market which we discussed in-depth during our event on competition in the cloud market.
Discussion with MEP Kolaja
We were happy to welcome MEP Marcel Kolaja, Vice-President of the European Parliament, who shared his views on the institutional support for the FOSS, its role in the much-discussed concept of European digital sovereignty, and ways to increase the cooperation of policy-makers with FOSS communities.
FOSS usage in the EU institutions & The Tallinn Declaration
The conversation on FOSS and the EU moved on to the current state and the future of the FOSSA 2 programme and the Tallinn Declaration with representatives from DG DIGIT and DG CNECT. FOSSA 2 holds the potential to be a model of those links between the public institutions, FOSS communities and developers.
There is still a lot of education that needs to be done and myths to dispel in the context of FOSS and local governments. However, as FOSS has taken a central role in the market, there is a growing interest among public authorities. Especially in the EU-context, with its focus on cross-border service delivery, for which FOSS-enabled options lead the way. We discussed such cases as the federation options of X-Road, initially piloted through the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) by the Estonian and Finnish governments.
From a policy perspective, central to moving these efforts forward will be a continued focus on the key documents such as the Tallinn Declaration, the European Commission’s Open Source Strategy and the European Interoperability Framework.
Rec 1: In the evaluations and midterm reports of Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programmes, particular focus should be given to FOSS and its role and relevance in the EU research funding instruments.
Rec 2: We welcome the European Commission call for tenders for a FOSS market study. It should however be updated with a similar cadence to other Digitisation measurement projects (e.g. DESI), in order to track the development as the rate of growth of FOSS is significant.
Rec 3: The European Commission should continue to research how to co-develop and support communities around FOSS solutions such as in the area of eGovernment.
Rec 4: The European institutions should, when funding research, make sure that the principles of open access science should also cover software developed as part of that research. As such it should be released under a FOSS license. This fosters collaboration between research teams and ensures reproducibility.
EU Institutional Capacity
Rec 5: The European Commission should bolster existing resources focusing on explore the creation of a unit with a clear mandate to work with FOSS and/or institute a cross-DG, cross-cabinet collaboration focused on FOSS’s increasing importance in the digital transformation.
Rec 6: The European institutions should rely on the well-documented wealth of knowledge available in FOSS communities when making policy decisions to minimize unintended consequences.
Rec 7: The European institutions should reach out to the FOSS community when preparing policy decisions, to extend its interaction from the technical to the policy level, to minimise the risk of unintended consequences.
Follow through on FOSS commitments
Rec 9: The European Commission should follow up the Member States’ commitments in the Tallinn Declaration and proactively take its role in supporting and monitoring the implementation of the Declaration in Member States.
Rec 10: The European institutions and Member States should begin considerations for a follow-up, more ambitious Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment, including further concrete goals and commitments for FOSS.
Rec 11: When developing software, the European Commission needs to follow its commitment to developing software under a FOSS license and Develop In the Open (DITO), and encourage all EU institutions moving towards a FOSS by default approach.