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Open Source Strategy: History

Open Source Strategy

In December 2000, the European Commission defined a strategy concerning the internal use of open source software (OSS) that created the context for the recognition and use of the Apache Web Server as a recommended solution on UNIX systems.

In July 2003 a revised version of the strategy was presented to the Comité Technique Informatique (CTI), a committee made up of persons responsible for IT in their Directorates General. A set of clear objectives was defined and approved by the CTI. This approach led to important achievements, the most prominent being the recommendation of Linux as Server OS, the use of Apache to power the server and the use of open source software for the Commissioners' blogs and public forums.

European Union Public Licence

Having met the initial objectives, the Commission further refined and revised its strategy in line with its evolving organisational requirements, while at the same time taking into consideration the worldwide developments in the field of OSS.

The newly revised strategy was published in 2007, and covered the period 2007-2010. Within this timeframe a number of major achievements were accomplished in the Commission. Notably, the completion and formal approval of the European Union Public Licence (EUPL), which is now used widely within public organisations as well as by the private sector.

The creation of the EUPL was complemented by the foundation of various community platforms supporting OSS development, such as the Open Source Observatory and Repository for European public administrations (, an award winning initiative, that hosts a number of OSS projects and links with similar European public administrations' platforms.

The OSOR supports and encourages the collaborative development and re-use of publicly-financed open source software (F/OSS) applications for use in European public administrations. It is a platform for exchanging information, experiences and F/OSS-based code. It also promotes and links to the work of national repositories, encouraging the emergence of  pan-European open source software repositories.

OSS products

During 2007-2010, the European Commission's activities have lead to the delivery of OSS tools in support of e-Government processes, such as e-Prior, a procurement tool for the exchange of standardised electronic documents that supports purchase orders and service catalogues, developed by the European Commission's DG Informatics and shared under EUPL on

Many products and tools used in the Commission has grown considerably during this period.

  • The European Commission runs IT solutions on more than 350 Linux servers
  • DIGIT’s Data Centre manages more than 800 OSS web servers
  • The Flexible Platform for Internet Services provides, among others, 40 blogs for Commissioners, EC Representations and other EUROPA sites and hosts more than 400 wikis
  • All new web applications at the European Commission are protected by an OSS-based solution for authentication, currently serving more than 300 existing web applications, more than 60 000 users and performing more than 1 000 0000 authentications on a yearly basis with more than 17 000 different users every day
  • Several corporate solutions are entirely based on OSS. Examples are in the area of content management, surveys, e-invoicing and e-ordering, etc. Within the Commission’s IT network, an OSS-based developer collaboration platform hosts more than 770 projects accessed by over 3000 developers
  • More than 60% of the information systems developed at the Commission are based on Java. All (100%) of these Java development projects include OSS tooling (e.g. to support the build process, for testing and quality assurance, for provision of core "runtime" functions such as frameworks for model-view controller, inversion of control, etc.). A corporate reference application eases the knowledge transfer to all development teams at the Commission
  • An OSS browser is included in the desktop reference configuration available for all PCs at the Commission

Open source strategy 2011-2013

In early 2010 the Commission performed an assessment on the use of OSS within the organisation. This current revision of the strategy, covering the period 2011-2013, has been indeed developed based on the accumulated experiences in the use of OSS in the European Commission over the last decade.The key components of the strategy are:

  • The Commission will continue to adopt formally  the use of OSS technologies and products through the product management procedure
  • The Commission will consider OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements. Contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis
  • For all future IT developments, the Commission shall promote the use of products that support recognised, well-documented standards. 
  • For the development of new information systems OSS will be the preferred choice
  • The Commission will clarify the legal context around the internal use of OSS
  • Governance is essential to management of ICT; this applies to OSS as well as to any ICT asset
  • The current evolutions of product management, from products to solutions, will apply to OSS as well
  • The Commission will continue to develop and adopt best practices and proven tools emerging from OSS communities. In addition, the EC will facilitate and promote the creation of communities for those OSS products released by the Commission
  • OSS plays an important role in e-Government projects and will be therefore considered within the framework of these activities
  • The collaboration between Commission teams in charge of the internal and external OSS strategies will be further enhanced in order to achieve convergence
  • 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 will continue to play an active role in promoting partnerships between the European Institutions and other stakeholders in the field of OSS