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La Quadrature du Net and the FFII (EU) Respond to the European Commission’s Digital Agenda

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Standard at 8:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Neelie Kroes
Credit: World Economic Forum
(Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence)

Summary: European freedom and rights groups are concerned about the deal Neelie Kroes is getting after lobbyists got involved

EARLIER this month we pointed out that the Commission's agenda got derailed by lobbyists of proprietary software companies, notably Microsoft and SAP. We had named some of the culprits in posts such as:

  1. European Open Source Software Workgroup a Total Scam: Hijacked and Subverted by Microsoft et al
  2. Microsoft’s AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
  3. Does the European Commission Harbour a Destruction of Free/Open Source Software Workgroup?
  4. The Illusion of Transparency at the European Parliament/Commission (on Microsoft)
  5. 2 Months and No Disclosure from the European Parliament
  6. After 3 Months, Europe Lets Microsoft-Influenced EU Panel be Seen
  7. Formal Complaint Against European Commission for Harbouring Microsoft Lobbyists
  8. ‘European’ Software Strategy Published, Written by Lobbyists and Multinationals
  9. Microsoft Uses Inside Influence to Grab Control, Redefine “Open Source”
  10. With Friends Like These, Who Needs Microsoft?

Clearly there is pressure on the Commission to abandon the notion that open standards are a desirable thing (Free software aside, but that’s important too) and La Quadrature du Net suspects that our freedoms are at stake. Their latest statement is summarised as follows:

On Tuesday May 18th, the Commission’s Digital Agenda will be released. This important document will define the European Union’s future policies on the Internet and other communications technologies. A leaked draft showed that major policy orientations remained to be arbitrated in advance of the release. Although much of the document puts forward very sensible and positive proposals, potential mentions of dogmatic copyright enforcement and Internet filtering could be sneaked in the final document at the last minute. Will the rights and freedoms of EU citizens be protected?

Groklaw too has responded to the Digital Agenda (Groklaw‘s editorship is US-oriented) and Microsoft is named:

That last part means that Microsoft could implement an open international standard like ODF if it wanted to, despite being a proprietary software business. So far, it doesn’t do so in a way that really works, and the only obstacle I know of, as reflected in their remarks about Google Docs, is a lack of a desire to actually do so.

The FFII‘s press release can be found below. That statement too makes it clear that Europeans are dissatisfied and wish to know which lobbyists are responsible for subverting a document which was intended to defend their freedoms, not the freedom of action for multinational corporations whose lobbyists (whom we named) took over the process.

Europe requires open standards and software freedom. Unless these are prescribed, neither requirement will be obeyed and there will be chaos like this new example:

A year ago, i wrote about how New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) requires the use of Internet Explorer to apply online (and it even appears to require IE just to download the PDF of the application!)

In this particular case we witness how a governmental programme becomes inaccessible to those who adhere to standards and are using Free software (as opposed to non-Free software from one particular company which was found guilty of crimes several times). The European Commission will hopefully not permit repetition of mistakes that are seen across the pond. Recommendation of Free software and open standards which everyone can master is a basic right; to do anything else is to use the sovereign nations to empower private entities of choice at the expense of everybody else.

Neelie Kroes’ Digital Agenda is ‘carrot without stick’

Brussels, 20 May 2010 — Yesterday EU-Commissioner Neelie Kroes disclosed her long-expected Digital Agenda for Europe. The Digital Agenda spans a 10-year period of upcoming European Commission policies in the digital sphere including ambitious regulatory initiatives. The FFII points out that her strategy document falls short on good governance and open standards.

“I would like Kroes to name the corporations that were lobbying behind closed doors for a removal of open standards.”
      –Benjamin Henrion
A “Digital Agenda Assembly”, an annual lobby-parliament to govern the agenda implementation, would be composed of delegates from the European Parliament and industry. The Assembly would bring them together to ‘assess progress and emerging challenges’ and receive input from a ‘High Level Group’ and ‘stakeholders’.

“Neelie Kroes feeds her ambitious Digital Agenda as raw meat to lobby groups. It is a carrot without stick”, warns René Mages from the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII). Mages continues, “The Commissioner undermines the dignity of the European elected representatives by setting them on equal footing with private interest representatives.” The FFII fears her governance principles would aggravate the trend to keep the backbone of the European ICT sector, small and medium-sized companies, from having significant influence in Brussels.

“Take open standards for example”, comments FFII president Benjamin Henrion. “Earlier drafts of the Commission’s Digital Agenda featured ‘open standards’ but interest groups managed to eliminate the phrase during inter-service consultations. I would like Kroes to name the corporations that were lobbying behind closed doors for a removal of open standards. Brussels should be transparent and be willing to reveal the elephant in the room.”


EU Commission Digital Agenda website: The Commission intends to “work closely with national governments, concerned organisations and companies.”

EU Digital Agenda:

Permanent link to this press release:


Benjamin Henrion
FFII Brussels
+32-484-56 61 09 (mobile)
bhenrion at ffii.org

FFII Berlin
office at ffii.org

About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in many European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

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