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EU Policies overview: Free Software and Open Standards

Many countries in Europe have laws and recommendations referring to Free Software and Open Standards. The picture is certainly complex, and can be confusing at times.

On this page, we attempt to provide an overview of the laws and policies that exist throughout Europe. If you are working for Free Software in your country, it is useful for you to know what your government says about the topic. Comparisons between different countries can also be instructive.

This page is a DRAFT. Please help us improve it and complete the picture! Do you know about a policy we're missing? Have we overlooked an aspect of a policy in your country?

Write to us. Please include a link to the relevant government publication whenever possible, ideally along with a (rough) translation of the relevant passages.

This is a work in progress. Please help us make this overview the best it can be!

EU

In 2004 the European Interoperability Framework v.1 was published, where, for the first time on the pan-European level, Free Software and proprietary software were treated equally. The EC encouraged the use of Open Standards in e-government services to effectively implement software interoperability both on national and international levels.

The term “Open Standards” is not in use in the European Interoperability Strategy and the EIF v.2, published in 2010. Instead, the EC introduced the term “open specifications” and proposed that“when establishing European public services, public administrations should prefer open specifications, taking due account of the coverage of functional needs, maturity and market support”.

The EC actively promotes public procurement of Free Software: in 2008 and 2010 special guidelines for public administrations on how and why publicly acquire Free Software were published.

Among other important EU documents on Free Software and Open Standards, EU Digital Agenda explicitly states that public procurement of software and ICT should promote efficiency and reduce lock-in.

Austria

National policy on public procurement of Free Software could not be found. Though in 2010 Austria announced its plan to create interoperable e-government systems based on Open Standards and Free Software.

Belgium

Since 2004, federally commissioned software must be delivered with the source code. Federal authorities are recommended to acquire Free Software,but final decisions should be based on total costs.

Starting 2008, Belgian federal government services are obliged to use the Open Document Format when exchanging documents.

Bulgaria

Open Standards and Free Software appear to play no significant role in Bulgaria's eGovernment strategies. In 2008 the Bulgarian government announced that it will consider Free Software while reviewing its national IT strategy.

Cyprus

There appear to be no Free Software policies.

Czech Republic

Free Software policies could not be found.

Denmark

Free Software procurement policy could not be found.

In 2003 the Danish government adopted a Software Strategy emphasizing value for money, competition, freedom of choice, and interoperability. The policy expresses no preference for Free Software.

In 2007-2008 Danish government ran a pilot program , where government institutions were required to carry Open Document Format and Microsoft’s Office Open XML format on all computers. They were obliged to accept ODF created by the public, businesses, and other governmental units. Since 2011, ODF must be used by all state authorities.

Estonia

Free Software policies could not be found.

Finland

Finnish government has recommended government agencies to consider Free Software since 2003.

In 2009 JUHTA, the public administration of information, has released the recommendation on the use of Free Software in public administrations . This policy document is intended to guide public institutions in the procurement of Free Software. Nevertheless, until now Open Standards and Free Software are not yet among the top priorities of the Finnish national IT policy.

France

The French government was among the first in Europe to consider setting up a national Free Software policy. The first proposals are dated 1999. Since then, several ministries, including Ministries of Defence, Culture, Economy, moved to Free Software operating systems.

In 2007 a guide of using Free Software in public administrations was published . Open Standards are used in e-government systems at the national, regional and local level.

Also, France has a public procurement law which includes the definition of Open Standards but does not provide them with mandatory or preferable status.

On September 19 2012, the newly appointed French government published a circular on Free Software in public administration. The document aims at giving gidelines and recommandations to public bodies related to their use of Free Software, it . It highlights the advantages of Free Software in term of competition, technological sovereignty and cost control. It also stresses the importance of sharing knowledge and skills in the digital society. The document promotes public contribution to Free Software project and regulat contact with Free Software communities. The policy created several working groups -on desktop applications, data bases, server OS un virtualisation systems- and a "kernel team" to favor interoperability, promote good practices and manage public contribution to Free Software projects.

On June 25 2013, a law concerning the “Policy and planning for the rebuilding of the school of the Republic ” was voted by the French Parliament. Its article 10 concerning e-learning states that procurement for e-learning services has to “consider Free Software and open format offers, if any”.

On July 9 2013 the prioritisation of Free Software was voted by the French parliament for the first time. It concerns learning ressources used by French Higher Education public service. Article L. 123-4-1 states that

"The Public Service for Higher Education provides digital services and educational resources to its users."
"free software is used on a priority basis."

Germany

The German government actively recommends and promotes usage and procurement of Free Software by public administrations. As an example, in 2007 the Foreign office moved to the ODF.

Under Germany's Standards and Architectures for eGovernment Applications 4.0 (SAGA 4.0, 2008), ODF recommended for editable text documents. Since 2007, all communications with the federal courts may be transmitted in the ODF format.

Greece

Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.

Hungary

Free Software policies could not be found.

Ireland

Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.

Italy

The Italian government encourages the use of Free Software by the public administrations and calls for its extensive use where possible.

The 2004 Italian Directive for public procurement of software stated that in the acquisition of software, the public administration must consider Free Software and judge software according to transferability, interoperability, dependency on supplier, and the availability of the source code for inspection.

In 2007 Italy launched its own repository of Free software for public administrations ( Ambiente di Sviluppo Cooperativo).

Latvia

Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.

Lithuania

Free Software policies could not be found.

Luxemburg

Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.

Malta

In 2010 Malta Information Technology Agency has launched a series of policies with the aim to inform and guide government organizations in the procurement process of ICT solutions. Among them, the Open Source Software Policy, Open Source Software Directive, Open Standards policy, Open Standards Directive were published. It states there that government should actively consider acquisition of Free Software taking into account all direct and indirect costs when calculating the cost-effectiveness of Free Software. All prospective ICT investments, procured and / or developed internally within the public sector, shall adopt Open Standards. Open Standards-based solutions and applications should be preferred.

Netherlands

Netherlands appear to have one of the most Free Software-oriented e-government and procurement policies in EU.

From December 2007 the Dutch parliament has been using exclusively Open Standards. The OSOSS ("open source as a part of the software strategy") Program was created to help stimulate the use of Open Standards by public administrations and provide information on Free Software.

In the Action plan published in 2007 the Dutch Cabinet intends to encourage the use of Free Software and Open Standards within the public and semi-public sectors. The key focus here is: “use Open Standards, or come up with a very good reason why this is not possible”. All institutions that still insist on the use of proprietary software must provide reasons for maintaining it until a later date.

Poland

The Polish government recommends the use of Open Standards to public agencies . According to the results of the survey carried out in 2010 90 percent of the Polish public administrations are using Free Software, though most of it is installed on servers.

Portugal

Portugal government recommends use of Free Software in the public administration, but these recommendations are not legally-binding.

Romania

Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.

Slovakia

Free Software policies or major initiatives could not be found.

Slovenia

Since 2003 Free Software and proprietary software are given equal consideration in public procurement.

Today only Slovenian courts adopted Open Office as a standard for office usage, but the Slovenian government has recently decided that by 2015 80 percent of the government's offices should be using Free software on their desktops .

Spain

The Spanish authorities promote the Free Software and encourage its usage by public agencies. In 2010 the Spanish government adopted the National Interoperability Framework where it is forbidden for the public administrations to use exclusively non-open standards without offering an Open-Standard alternative, unless such alternatives do not exist.

Sweden

Swedish government recommends public institutions to judge Free Software and proprietary software on an even basis in the public procurement processes .

UK

In 2010 the UK government reviewed its Free Software strategy but remained pro-active user of Free Software. It states that the UK government will actively and fairly consider Free Software solutions alongside proprietary ones in making procurement decisions. Procurement decisions will be made on the basis on the best value for money solution to the business requirement, taking account of total lifetime cost of ownership of the solution, including exit and transition costs, after ensuring that solutions fulfill minimum and essential capability, security, scalability, transferability, support and manageability requirements. However, Free Software is given a preference, where there is no significant overall cost difference between free and non-free software products.

The UK Government will require suppliers to provide evidence of consideration of Free Software solutions during procurement exercises – if this evidence is not provided, bidders are likely to be disqualified from the procurement. The UK Government will expect software developers to consider where necessary a suitable mix of Free Software and proprietary products to ensure that the best possible overall solution can be found.

The Government adopts Open Standards and uses these to communicate with the citizens and businesses that have adopted Free Software solutions.

In a procurement policy note 2011 the UK Cabinet recommends government departments wherever possible to deploy Open Standards in their procurement specifications.

In Government ICT Strategy, published on 30.03.2011, the UK Government impose compulsory Open Standards for the Government ICT infrastructure for interoperability and security reasons. It expressly states that government agencies should procure Free Software solutions, where appropriate - to help with this, a special toolkit for procurers on the use of Free Software will be published within next 6 months. Also, the UK Cabinet will promote more active participation of small and medium-size enterprises as well as voluntary and social sector, social enterprise organizations in bidding for government ICT contracts.