Open Source, digital sovereignty and interoperability

The Berlin Declaration

Published on: 16/12/2020

The ministers responsible for digital transformation in the public administration in all EU Member States pointed to the relationship between interoperable open source solutions for the public sector and digital sovereignty in the Berlin Declaration, signed on 8 December 2020.

The signatories committed to:

  1. Promote fundamental rights and democratic values in the digital sphere;
  2. Enhance social participation and inclusion;
  3. Foster digital empowerment and digital literacy;
  4. Strengthen trust through security in the digital sphere;
  5. Strengthen Europe’s digital sovereignty and interoperability;
  6. Create value-based, human-centred AI systems for use in the public sector;
  7. Foster resilience and sustainability.

In this Declaration, following the 2017 Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment, the Member States renew and take their commitments to digital public services a step further. The Declaration also emphasises the urgency of placing citizens’ needs at the centre of public policies and services. The signatories state: “we reconfirm our common political commitment regarding the stated priorities with a view to ensuring high quality, user-centric and seamless cross-border digital public services for citizens and businesses in developing a future-oriented European Single Market.”

In line with this, it is declared that open source software is one of the facilitators for deploying and developing strategic digital tools and capacities in the public sector and to ensure interoperability. Moreover, the importance of open source, digital government and interoperability is put in the strategic perspective of digital sovereignty. The Declaration states that open source software, together with common standards and modular architectures, are “facilitators for deploying and developing strategic digital tools and capacities.” All underlying digital components, be it hardware, software or services, must not only meet European requirements, but in developing these, the signatories aim to establish a wide selection of high-performing digital solutions to ensure the possibility to freely choose and change IT modules when needed.

The Declaration makes the link between interoperability, open source solutions and sovereignty, which constitutes a major development in the discussions on open source in the public sector. It indicates that this conversation is moving forward to consider the way in which the digitalisation of the European public sector is becoming of strategic importance.

The commitments in the Berlin Declaration, from the perspective of where interoperability, open source and digital sovereignty meet, show the opportunities that come with having access to the source code, be it for digital skills, social inclusion, transparency, resilience, or for digital sovereignty.