Breakfast Briefing to the European Parliament, organized by Open Forum Europe, 19 October 2011, Brussels

Dr. Carol Cosgrove-Sacks, OASIS Senior Advisor on International Standards Policy, addresses the Internal Market Committee of the European Parliament. The briefing meeting was organized by Open Forum Europe, Brussels.

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to explain, from OASIS’ perspective, why we think the reform proposed by the European Commission represents a welcome, forward-thinking vision for ICT standards and will contribute to the sustainable growth of the European economy.

As an economist and a long-time Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges, I can claim a degree of expertise regarding the importance of standards as building blocks for innovation. Standards are most effective when they are global. Europe’s prospects for competitiveness in the world depend on the capacity of enterprises in Europe to innovate and to bring to market new technologies. There is no doubt that standardization is a key factor in productivity, growth and trade. Standards, especially ICT standards in Europe, need to be accessible, responsive to market trends as they emerge, and able to adapt to the fast changing global economic and technical landscape.

The EU Digital Agenda launched in Spring 2011 stressed the significance of open standards to support interoperability of ICT-related products and processes. Enterprises in Europe need access to ICT standards that are “fit for purpose” to support dynamic growth at lowest cost in these uncertain economic times. The continuing economic and financial crisis, coupled with lack of progress in the global trade negotiations in the WTO, make it even more essential that companies and research institutes as well as the public sector can use the most relevant ICT standards, whether they are developed by the ESOs or by global Fora and Consortia. If Europe is to be competitive, it is necessary that these standards be used in public procurement and to facilitate policy making for a stronger European economy.

OASIS is an active member in the standardization ecosystem. It is well-known throughout Europe and the world for its open processes and robust policies that facilitate rapid user driven standards for the information economy. Clearly, standards from OASIS and other eligible Fora and Consortia, like W3C, must comply with EU-defined quality criteria.

In OASIS, some 35 percent of our membership comes from Europe. European public and private sector interests set priorities and take a major role in standards development. OASIS standards are the backbone for the Belgian tax ICT system, the Danish and Dutch governments use OASIS Open Document standards for many of their governmental needs, and increasingly the EU-financed Large Scale Projects – or LSPs – are using OASIS open standards to define their requirements, e.g. PEPPOL regarding public procurement and the OASIS standard UBL.

OASIS has participated for many years in the EU ICT Standards Board, sitting with the ESOs and other standards developers to ensure good coordination of activities and avoidance of duplication. Since 2006 OASIS has participated in the EU ICT Steering Committee and in 2009-2010 I personally represented OASIS on the high level European Expert Panel for the Reform of the European Standards System [EXPRESS].

OASIS strongly supports the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee, submitted on 01 June 2011, to widen the range of standards available to the public sector and enterprises to promote their success in a fast changing world.

Articles 9 and 10 of the proposed Regulation are both very important. Article 9 provides for the recognition of ICT specifications in public policies and public procurement. Article 10 specifically allows for referencing Fora and Consortia Specifications in public procurement. They would not easily be combined.

OASIS supports direct referencing that allows public authorities to select ICT standards which are market relevant and which enable them to choose systems and solutions which meet their needs and objectives.

OASIS identifies with EU policies and activities for innovation and competitiveness. OASIS would be pleased to participate in a high level ICT Stakeholder Platform, which we hope will be lean and efficient.

OASIS sometimes submits individual specifications to ISO/IEC JTC1 and we have PAS submitter status. But we believe it would be faster and more efficient to permit the use of OASIS standards directly. This would strengthen Europe’s participation in fast moving ICT trends such as Smartgrid and eHealth standards and the broader use of Cloud computing. The European Commission is looking at standards for Cloud Computing and indicated already that it will not seek to reinvent the wheel and will use those that best serve Europe’s interests in the global context, such as the OASIS standard on Identity management in the Cloud.

ICT standards open up global markets. The ICT-relevant provisions of the draft Regulation will make a major contribution to Europe’s competitiveness and strengthen its capacity for innovation. Distinguished Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen, OASIS hopes you will support the draft Regulation and enhance Europe’s ICT industry.

Thank you.