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Open Letter on transparency to President of the European Parliament

Dear Mr President Schulz,

Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a neutral non-profit, non-governmental charity registered in Germany, and active across Europe, working to build a free information society. For more than a decade, FSFE has been assisting policy makers, businesses and citizens to avail themselves of the advantages of Free Software.

Open Rights Group (ORG) is the leading UK grassroots organisation defending civil liberties and human rights in the digital sphere - including freedom of expression, privacy and access to knowledge. ORG is continuously looking for opportunities for dialogue with public institutions on issues relating to digital rights, citizen participation and democratic interaction in the information society.

Further to the request to initiate the tendering of a full study on Parliament's obligations with regard to Free Software [1] and Open Standards [2], we would like to submit our suggestions for the specifications of this study. We believe the Parliament should find answers to the following questions:

  1. Is the Parliament's use of software compliant with the Parliament's Rule 103 of its Rules of Procedure on "utmost transparency" and "public access"? Would the EP be obliged to make available to the public the source code of such software under a 1049/2001 access request? If not, why not?
  2. Would public access to Parliament's activities be facilitated, and discrimination of citizens be avoided, if the Parliament would use a vendor independent document file format which has been fully implemented also in Free Software office productivity packages?
  3. How can Rule 103 be combined with Free Software and Open Standards so as to avoid that citizens are monitored by third parties when accessing the Parliament's activities?
  4. In relation to Rule 103, which Open Data initiatives would help to ensure that decisions can be taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizens?
  5. Regarding Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, would public access to the Parliament's acitivities be facilitated if citizens were able to play both archived audio and video, and live audio and video streams of parliamentary activities without being forced to install non-free software on their computers?
  6. Does Rule 103 also cover transparency in procurement procedures, in particular regarding the procurement of software and related services? Do the requirements of Rule 103 go above and beyond the requirements of Directive 2004/EC/18 on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works  contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts?

Our organisations welcome the commitment of the European Parliament to the principles of openness and transparency. We stand ready to assist the Parliament in improving the possibilities for European citizens to follow and participate in the Parliament's work. We believe that Free Software and Open Standards will be essential to reaching this goal, and are pleased to put our expertise at your disposal.

Karsten Gerloff, President, Free Software Foundation Europe

Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group

[1] See here for a list of widely accepted Free Software licenses.

[2] Here is the Definition of Open Standards. The European Commission used a similar definition in the original version of the European Interoperability Framework.