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Open source software strategy

The European Commission will further encourage and leverage the transformative, innovative and collaborative potential of open source. 

Open source software strategy 2020-2023

On October 21st, the European Commission approved the new Open Source Software Strategy 2020-2023 of the Commission. This is an important step towards achieving the goals of the overarching Digital Strategy of the Commission and contributing to the Digital Europe programme.

The internal strategy, under the theme ‘’Think Open’’, sets out a vision for encouraging and leveraging the transformative, innovative and collaborative power of open source, its principles and development practices. It promotes the sharing and reuse of software solutions, knowledge and expertise, to deliver better European services that benefit society and lower costs to that society. The Commission commits to increasing its use of open source not only in practical areas such as IT, but also in areas where it can be strategic.

Open source software strategy 2020-2023
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The key objectives of the new strategy are to enable the Commission to:

  • Progress towards digital autonomy of Europe’s own, independent digital approach;
  • Implement the European Commission Digital Strategy;
  • Encourage sharing and reuse of software and applications, as well as data, information and knowledge;
  • Contribute to the knowledge society by sharing the Commission’s source code;
  • Build a world-class public service;

The implementation of the strategy will be guided by 6 principles: think open, transform, share, contribute, secure, stay in control. In practice, the Commission aims to reinforce an internal working culture that is already largely based on the principles of open source and achieve the goals of the strategy by the following concrete actions:

  • Set up an Open Source Programme Office in the Commission;
  • Set and promote the inner source default;
  • Enhance the software repository;
  • Revise software distribution practices;
  • Enable and create innovation with open source labs;
  • Develop skills and recruiting expertise;
  • Increase outreach to communities;
  • Integrate open source in internal IT governance;
  • Ensure OSS security;
  • Encourage and promote inner source;

Open source software strategy 2014-2017

The Commission, which is already using open source for many of its key ICT services and software solutions, has increased the role of this type of software internally. The 2014-2017 strategy puts a special emphasis on procurement, contribution to open source software projects and providing more of the software developed within the Commission as open source.

The specific objectives of the strategy are:

Equal treatment in procurement

The Commission will ensure a level playing field to open source software when procuring new software solutions. This means that open source solutions and proprietary solutions will be assessed on an equal basis, being both evaluated on the basis of total cost of ownership, including exit costs.

Contribution to communities

The Commission services will increasingly participate in open source software communities to build on the open source building blocks which are used in the Commission's software.

Clarification of legal aspects

In order to enable easy collaboration with the open source communities, Commission developers will benefit from appropriate legal coaching and advice on how to deal with the intellectual property issues relating to open source software.

Open-source and interoperable Commission-developed software

Software produced by the Commission services, in particular software produced with the objective of being used outside the Commission, will be open sourced and published on the Joinup platform and will use the European Union Public License (EUPL). The software produced should aim to be interoperable and use open technical specifications.

Transparency and better communication

The strategy emphasises an improved governance, an increasing use of open source in the domain of ICT security and the alignment of this strategy with the EC’s ISA Programme, facilitating the modernisation of cross border and cross sector eGovernment services.

1. The Commission shall continue to adopt formally, through the Product Management procedure, the use of OSS technologies and products.

2. The Commission shall ensure a level playing field for open source software and demonstrate an active and fair consideration of using open source software – taking account of the total cost of ownership of the solution.

3. For all future IT developments, the Commission shall promote the use of products that support recognised, well-documented and preferably open technical specifications that can be freely adopted, implemented and extended. Interoperability is a critical issue for the Commission, and use of well-established standards is a key factor to achieve it.

4. For the internal development of new information systems, in particular where deployment is foreseen by third parties outside the EC infrastructure, OSS shall be the preferred choice and used whenever possible.

5. The Commission shall further clarify the legal context around the internal use of OSS and make this clarification available to interested parties. The main topics to be addressed include: licensing schemes, Intellectual Property Rights, equal opportunities in the context of procurement and participation in OSS communities.

6. The Commission shall further develop guidelines and best practices allowing the setup of OSS and mixed solutions covering the full set of professional services, including deployment of OSS solutions in its data centres at the same level of service as the proprietary ones.

7. The Commission shall continue to develop and adopt best practice and tools emerging from OSS communities while applying state-of-the-art governance practices, particularly in the domain of security. In addition, the EC will facilitate and promote the creation of communities for those OSS products released by the Commission and facilitate participation in external OSS communities.

8. OSS plays an important role in e-Government projects and shall be therefore considered within the framework of these activities.

9. The collaboration between Commission teams in charge of the internal and external OSS strategies shall be further enhanced in order to achieve convergence, in particular through alignment with and reuse of validated solutions produced by the ISA programme.

10. The ICT ecosystem is extremely dynamic, innovative, and constantly evolving; as such it impacts many areas of the Commission's policies. Within this context, DIGIT shall continue to play an active role in promoting partnerships focusing on OSS between the European Institutions and other stakeholders.

Action plan

Together with the strategy, a comprehensive action plan has been created, addressing all 10 points above. It is scheduled for execution during the period 2015-2017.

This action plan involves coordination of many activities with different services at the Commission in order to ensure that the principles of the strategy are followed internally. The activities include:

  • Inventory
  • Product management and procurement processes
  • Promotion of standards
  • External diffusion of EC produced software
  • OSS based architecture stack
  • Compatibility of licences
  • Clarifications and recommendations to developers
  • Service around OSS used at the Commission
  • Actions around communities, follow-up, participation
  • As these actions are mostly internal, the visible outcome will be the provision of equal opportunities in procurement, publication of the clarifications for developers, usage of the OSS in published developments, etc. as expressed in the strategy.


The Commission's strategy for the internal use of Open Source Software was first adopted in 2000, and has since been updated three times.

Open source strategy in the Commission: history

The use of open source software at the Commission increases and is extended to new areas with every new version.

EU-FOSSA - Free and Open Source Software Auditing

The EU-FOSSA project – short for Free and Open Source Software Auditing – aims to increase the security and integrity of critical open source software. It was launched by the European Commission at the instigation of the European Parliament after the discovery of the Heartbleed bug in 2014. More about EU FOSSA