In the European information technology standards field, the European Commission is funding several Project Teams under the supervision of CEN/TC304 (Character Set Technology) to undertake new standardisation tasks related to European Localization Requirements, so that computer hardware and software takes account of user needs related to European languages and related issues.

As part of this work, the European Ordering Rules Project Team (EOR) began work on 2 February 1998, and consists of Håvard Hjulstad (Norway), Marc Küster (Germany) and John Clews (United Kingdom), with the aim of defining a default multilingual sorting order which can be used throughout Europe.

Before any "Euromyths" have a chance to arise, it should be made clear that this is NOT an attempt to impose a single sorting order on all computer users in Europe, but to provide a standard reference point which CAN be used as a pan-European order, but which will enable those developing and procuring IT systems with a simple means of specifying any different requirements related to existing national uses or any specific applications.

Because it will be based on user expectations and existing practices, the intended standard is likely to follow what most users already use, and to follow practices already prevalent in the IT industry. However, ordering rules in IT systems have been developed in isolation and the intended new reference point will help to enable more common practices to be developed, which will benefit European computer developers and computer users alike.

Initially, EOR will examine specific issues such as:

How EOR will operate

EOR is initially looking at how extended Latin, Greek and Cyrillic scripts should be sorted so that a European Standard can be developed to provide guidance on sorting European repertoires in UCS (ISO/IEC 10646 and Unicode), aimed both at end-users and computer system developers.

Surprisingly, there are no published international (ISO) or European (EN) standards on multilingual sorting as such, although various national and de facto standards provide relevant guidance on sorting specific languages and scripts.

A major rationale for multilingual ordering of European characters will be User expectations: what would users of the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic scripts, and symbols, find acceptable as a multilingual sorting order? For some purposes, computer users in Europe have already developed rules for sorting multilingual text and records, and EOR is anxious to receive details of any existing standards or practices which are developed or used by more than one institution, so that the Project Team's final recommendations will generally fall in line with user expectations of multilingual sorting in Europe.

EOR's work is intended to be very open. An initial open meeting was held in early February 1998 in Brussels during the CEN/TC304 meeting, and another one is planned during the next CEN/TC304 meeting in Reykjavik in June 1998. Email contact to and a web site are also intended to ensure open communication to as wide an audience as possible.

EOR Contact points

Author: John Clews
9 February 1998
John Clews, SESAME Computer Projects, 8 Avenue Rd, Harrogate, HG2 7PG
Email:; tel: +44 (0) 1423 888 432
Chairman of ISO/TC46/SC2: Conversion of Written Languages;
Member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC22/WG20: Internationalization;
Member of CEN/TC304: Character Set Technology;
Member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC2: Character Sets.