September 14, 2004

Penguin Europe: The EuroLugs network project

Author: Marco Fioretti

Last April, many GNU/Linux users, organized by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), met in Brussels to demonstrate
before the European Parliament (EP) against the introduction of
software patents in the European Union. During the event, further protests were
coordinated for the following month in many European cities. Eventually, the guys in
Brussels found themselves asking, why don't we do this
systematically? More precisely, why don't we create EuroLugs, a
permanent network of all European LUGS and FLOSS associations, so we
can act faster, all together and more effectively?

Note the network part: nobody felt the need for yet another association, which could potentially
dilute lobbying efforts. What was seen as missing was just a greater
coordination of the groups already existing that promoting
Linux and all free software locally.

FFII's mission is to support the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. FFII currently hosts the EuroLugs Web pages. The founders point out that the idea to join all LUGs of Europe came from the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, composed of 42 EP members from thirteen countries, and that EuroLugs is not tied to any political party.

The project was officially started one month after Brussels, on May
15. As of the end of last month, the EuroLugs directory contained almost 130
entries, including some international organizations like FFII
and the French-speaking Scideralle, focused on free software for education. So far, the
highest number of subscriptions have come from France and Italy, with 32
and 31 LUGS listed respectively. All corners of the continent are
represented, however, and even areas outside the EU. Participation is not
restricted to LUGs -- every local or national European association
interested in Free Software and related issues is welcome to join.

One voice

A very preliminary draft of the first objectives the LUGs decided in
Brussels is available online. The goal is to raise awareness in Europe that problems like
software patents, copyright, and fair use can be solved only by coupling local
with international actions and proposals.

Practically speaking, the
future activity of the network should be on three main levels:
lobbying, events organization, and spreading information. The primary lobbying should speak with one voice, on behalf of all European LUGs, before European institutions. Another
important future target could be to represent the European Free
Software community at the UN World summit in Tunis in November 2005. EuroLugs also hopes to
speak directly to UNESCO. This might be the
most promising outcome of the project, but could also become the most
challenging, unless it is limited to presenting petitions and
such. Speaking and being acknowledged at such a level normally implies
some formal, permanent association, with a precise statute and
official representatives dedicating a lot of time to the task. It also
implies the power to take binding decisions on behalf of all members,
if you are not consulted just to give an opinion. It is not clear yet
if and how this will be compatible with the currently stated goals of
being a loose network of independent units.

One agenda

The most common way to advertise the existence of one pan-European
free software community will probably turn out to be the organization of
common events and initiatives across the whole continent, not just the
EU. The first proposal has been the institution of one "Euro Linux"
day or week every year in which all local LUGs organize Linux
promotion activities in their cities. Some countries already celebrate
their own national Linux Day, and the one proposed by EuroLugs is not
supposed to replace those events; the local LUGs would
continue to define the local agendas, as in most cases already

The date of the first Euro Linux day or week has still to be
defined, but spring 2005 seems the most likely period. It would be
nice, if you ask me, to see some Euro-Penguin tours in those
days. What about making new friends, hacking, and visiting your
favorite European city all in the same week? Getting help from, and
meeting, the guys who know where to find the best Wi-Fi hot spots or
music clubs with the same ease?

One European FLOSS portal

Last but not least, EuroLugs wants to distribute free software
information and news relevant to European citizens,
ranging from the best methods to localize and use free software to suggestions
for effective local lobbying. Eventually, EuroLugs hopes to build its
own news portal in several languages. Right now, however, a mailing
list and some wiki pages are all that is needed, since by definition
all the actual work must happen locally, in the several groups.

Another possible and very interesting outcome of such a portal would
be to bypass bureaucracy. Imagine two city administrations in two
European countries. The first, autonomously or with help from the
local LUG, might have developed some OSS accounting system to comply
with the latest EU laws, which would be very useful to the
second. Bureaucracy being what it is, it would take ages for the
second city to get the good news and contact the first through their
respective national governments. A call to the local LUG, asking to
please check whether somebody else in Europe already has an OSS solution
to comply with EU directive X might accomplish the same result in a
couple of days. From then, several other good things might
follow: public adoption of other OSS products, further migration to
free software, contracts for local GNU/Linux programmers -- who knows?

How to join or contact EuroLugs

EuroLugs members have their own mailing list. At least one
representative for each European LUG is invited to participate in the
network. LUGs willing to join should also visit the group's wiki page and insert their

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