All European institutes should be able to use the Open Document Format (ODF) in exchanges with citizens and national administrations, says Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič, in response to questions by member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter. "There is no lock-in effect whatsoever, and no contradiction with the Commission's strategy on interoperability."
In November MEP Andersdotter asks the EC five questions on formats of editable electronic documents. For instance, she wants to know how the EC reconciles its endeavour to counteract IT vendor lock-in with its internal guidelines. These recommend the use of a document standard that is "only fully implemented in the software of one dominant software vendor", writes the MEP. On 7 January, Commissioner Šefčovič replies that the guidelines are an internal recommendation, "aimed at controlling expenditure by identifying the most cost-effective solution."
Commissioner Šefčovič: "For exchanges with the external world, including citizens and other public administrations, the approach is clearly open." For revisable documents, all European institutions are recommended to support as a minimum two ISO standards, the Open Document Format (ODT) and Office Open XML (OOXML).
The EC has implemented these recommendations, the Commissioner writes. "The EC can already support ODF, OOXML and other widely used document formats in its exchanges."
Commenting on the response by Šefčovič, Maël Brunet, director of OpenForum Europe, an organisation advocating the use of open standards in ICT, says it is "a missed opportunity for the EU to lead by example."
"Generally, selecting a single, open standard is the best way to achieve interoperability and unrestricted re-use of public documents", says Brunet.
"In our experience, ODF is not always fully supported by the European institutions in their external exchanges. For instance, EC public consultations are sometimes only released and/or answerable in PDF and Microsoft's version of OOXML. In such cases, ODF is supported only upon request and the documents may contain formatting errors. This is a problem for citizens and public administrations that choose to use an open standard for document editing."
The Swiss Open Systems User Group welcomes the Commission's statement of support for ODF. Matthias Stürmer: "Although Switzerland is not a member state of the EU, we hope that the Swiss government and also the Swiss cantons follow this suggestion to officially support ODF documents."
Stürmer points to the country's highest court, the Federal Court, as an example. The court is using ODF for all of its electronic documents, and has been doing this for more than ten years. "This should help to convince other public administrations to also use ODF."