EU's New IT "Principles" Show Unprincipled Hypocrisy

You may remember that there was a big to-do about the European Interoperability Framework, and the definition of “open standards”. The key issue was how to create a level playing field so that any company can compete fairly when IT...

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You may remember that there was a big to-do about the European Interoperability Framework, and the definition of "open standards". The key issue was how to create a level playing field so that any company can compete fairly when IT contracts are being awarded by the EU. As I pointed out then, the end-result was a complete disgrace, since it basically paid lip-service to such level playing fields while fundamentally undermining them.

Despite that, the European Commission is still banging on about that "level playing-field", as this post from Neelie Kroes shows:

the European Union and the United States have found a way to make a constructive difference to ICT-related trade – through a series of principles that we will each apply to our respective trade negotiations with third countries.

By joining the forces of the world's two largest economies, the EU and US, we are shifting the terms of global debate on ICT regulation. We are saying that the level playing field must be a core principle in ICT regulation.

Actually, what these "principles" are really about is forcing developing countries to accept Western technological dominance:

The benefits of EU innovation shouldn't just be for European citizens, and our businesses deserve a chance to compete fairly. There is much to tackle. Whether it's national standards, poor IPR enforcement or cumbersome regulations, trade is held back with countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina.

Er, those "benefits" would be intellectual monopolies that not only throttle local creative industries by imposing unnecessary and disproportionate copyright terms, they actually kill people by denying them access to generic medicines because the latter "infringe" on Western drug patents: after all, as we know, maintaining fabulous pharma profits is far more important than the death of a few thousand poor people.

But serious as those undoubtedly are, I want to concentrate on another aspect here. The above quotations plainly state: "We are saying that the level playing field must be a core principle in ICT regulation," and "our businesses deserve a chance to compete fairly"; so, I wonder, how does the European Commission square those statements with the following news:

At a secret meeting last December, Commission civil servants agreed in principle to upgrade more than 36,000 desktop computers in European institutions to Windows 7 without holding a public tender. The proposed move could tie the Commission to Microsoft for the next four to five years, flying in the face of the Commission's own advice to avoid public procurement lock-in.

By awarding a contract to Microsoft in secret, without putting it out to public tender so that all businesses can "compete fairly", we see once again the European Commission's hypocrisy when it calls for transparency and level playing-fields from developing countries. And they have the temerity to talk about ICT "principles"...

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