Senior EC officials have denied a media report that suggested the European Commission was falling short in its own internal attempt to promote open standards in the technology sector.
"The European Union executive has so far not followed its own policy that it purchase office software and operating systems with open standards as well Microsoft products," Reuters said in an article based on an interview with Christos Ellinides, the director of corporate IT solutions and services at the EC.
"For the moment we are working in a Microsoft environment," Ellinides is quoted as saying in the interview.
Ellinides reportedly said that he would need to talk to the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, the Court of Auditors and the Court of Justice before considering any changes.
"We like to make sure that economies of scale are taken into account, as opposed to everyone doing their own thing," he is reported as saying.
Ellinides' reported comments came one week after the EC Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, gave a speech in which she strongly endorsed software based on open standards.
While she did not mention Microsoft by name, Kroes referred to the two fines Microsoft received back in 2004 and 2008. "The commission has never before had to issue two periodic penalty payments in a competition case," she said.
"Choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed," she told attendees of the conference on standardisation, hosted by the IT industry group Open Forum Europe.
During this conference, Kroes also commented on the Commission's pledge to buy open-standard software. "This policy, adopted last year, needs to be implemented with vigour," Kroes is reported as saying.
However, senior EU officials including Ellinides and his boss, Francisco Garcia Moran, Director General of Directorate General (Informatics), denied that that the EC is operating a Microsoft-only policy at the expense of other commercial and open source software.
"The European Commission not only uses Microsoft products," Moran and Ellinides responded in an emailed answer to Techworld. "It uses many other products from both commercial suppliers and from the open source world."
They pointed out that most of the mission critical applications, such as HR, are developed using Java.
"Generally, we have found that the best way of serving our users is by a selected combination of commercial and open source softwares (sic) selected by its merits in order to maximise efficiency, ergonomics and features in a very demanding environment," they said.
Moran and Ellinides admit that Microsoft products have been used by all the EU institutions for many years now, mostly on the Office Automation environment. But in terms of cost, "Microsoft products represent less than 10 percent of the total yearly cost (including hardware, software, network connectivity, user support etc) of running the typical office automation environment for end users."
Graham Taylor, chief executive of the Open Forum Europe, and the man who hosted the event last week at which Kroes made her comments, told Techworld that he was keen to see the EC expand upon its use of open source software.
"We hope and expect that the EC will take the next steps to open up their purchasing strategy and will include a lot more open source software," said Taylor. "A key next step would be to mandate the use of open standards to ensure interoperability for all new solutions."