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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<title>Open Letter to Giancarlo Vilella, DG ITEC, European
<p id="category"><a href="/activities/activities.html">Our Work</a> / <a href="/freesoftware/standards/standards.html">Overview of Open Standards</a></p>
Giancarlo Vilella <br/>
Director General, DG ITEC <br/>
European Parliament <br/>
Re : Use of document and video formats in the EU Institutions
Dear Mr Vilella,
As you may know we are celebrating
today <a href="">Document Freedom
Day</a>. The goal of this annual event is to raise public awareness on
information accessibility and the use of open standards. We thought
this would be a good opportunity share with you, in your capacity as
the Chair of the Inter-Institutional Committee for Informatics, some
reflections on the use of document formats in the EU Institutions.
We believe that the EU Institutions have a key role to play in setting
an example for public administrations throughout Europe, and should
embrace the opportunity to spread good practices through enlightened
On the issue of video standards, we regret that the infrastructure for
video-streaming of the European Parliament and the Council is still
based on proprietary formats (Windows Media Player and Silverlight
respectively). This is a problem for EU citizens and stakeholder
groups wishing to participate in the legislative process without being
forced to use the products of a single company. We have
been <a href="">raising this
issue</a> since 2008, when we
were <a href="">told</a>
that the Parliament was working on a new system for streaming that
would be built on open standards and accessible to all. We would be
interested to know if this project is still in development.
We are appreciative of
the <a href="">recent
efforts</a> of the Institutions to support open standards in document
exchange and
the <a href="">acknowledgement
by the European Commission</a> [pdf] of
“effective captivity” to a single provider for its office automation,
although we would be interested to see the data which has led the
Commission to claim that “the lack of choice is almost total as
regards... productivity tools”. We are also conscious of the
complexity of managing the infrastructure of a large user base with
diverse needs and some of the specific challenges encountered in the
context of a multilingual environment. Important decisions such as the
choice of a document format should be based on user needs and a sound
(long term) cost-benefit analysis, before any other considerations.
With regards to the current situation, we regret that
the <a href="">decision</a> [pdf]
made by the Inter-Institutional Committee for Informatics in 2010
remains to be fully enforced. Indeed, to our knowledge the chosen
format for the exchange of editable documents among the Institutions
(OOXML) is not fully implemented in any of the applications that are
currently used. We are also concerned that the stated external support
for ODF <a href="">appears to be inconsistent.</a>
Throughout Europe, public administrations are increasingly adopting
open standards. This gives them the power to choose the applications
that are right for them and the citizens who use their services, by
ensuring real innovation and competition between providers. Just a few
weeks ago, the UK government published a <a href="">recommendation</a> on the
formats in which editable government information should be shared and
In a recent meeting, the Inter-institutional Committee for
Informatics <a href="">expressed
the view</a> that document formats were “not a secondary issue” and
decided to “explore the possibility of harmonizing the format of the
documents”. We hope that these reflections will be followed up with
action, and we remain at your entire disposal to provide help and
guidance when and where appropriate.
Graham Taylor
Chief Executive
OpenForum Europe
Karsten Gerloff
Free Software Foundation Europe
cc Stephen Quest, European Commission<br/>
Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission<br/>
Catherine Day, European Commission<br/>
Neelie Kroes, European Commission<br/>
Dirk Schilders, Council of the EU
<description>Open letter to Giancarlo Vilella, Director General of DG ITEC, European Parliament.</description>