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Appendix 1: The 1993: Council code

Council decision (20.12.93) on public access to Council documents


Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 151 (3) thereof,

Having regard to its Rules and Procedure, and in particular Article 22 thereof, [Note 1]

Whereas on 6 December 1993 the Council and the Commission approved a code of conduct concerning public access to Council and Commission documents, reaching common agreement on the principles which must govern such access;

Whereas provisions should be adopted for the implementation of those principles by the Council;

Whereas these provisions are applicable to any document held by the Council, whatever its medium, excluding documents written by a person, body or institution outside the Council;

Whereas the principles of allowing the public wide access to Council documents, as part of greater transparency in the Council's work, must however be subject to exceptions, particularly as regards protection of the public interest, the individual and privacy;

Whereas, in the interests of rationalization and efficiency, the Secretary-General of the Council should sign on behalf of the Council and on its authorization replies to applications for access to documents, except in cases where the Council is called upon to reply to confirmatory application;

Whereas this Decision must apply with due regard for provisions governing the protection of classified information,


Article 1

1.The public shall have access to Council documents under the conditions laid down in this Decision.

2."Council document" means any written text, whatever its medium, containing existing data and held by the Council, subject to Article 2 (2).

Article 2

  1. An application for access to a Council document shall be sent in writing to the Council. It must be made in a sufficiently precise manner and must contain information enabling the document or documents requested to be identified. Where necessary, the applicant shall be asked for further details.

2.Where the requested document was written by a natural or legal person, a Member State, another Community institution or body, or any other national or international body, the application must not be sent to the Council, but direct to the author.

Article 3

1.The applicant shall have access to a Council document either by consulting it on the spot or by having a copy sent at his own expense. The fee shall be set by the Secretary-General.

2.The relevant departments of the General Secretariat shall endeavour to find a fair solution to deal with repeat applications and/or those which relate to very large documents.

  1. Anyone given access to a Council document may not reproduce or circulate the document for commercial purposes through direct sale without prior authorization from the Secretary General.

Article 4

  1. Access to a Council document shall not be granted where its disclosure could undermine:

- the protection of the public interest (public security, international relations, monetary stability, court proceedings, inspections and investigations),

- the protection of the individual and of privacy,

- the protection of commercial and industrial secrecy,

- the protection of the Community's financial interests,

- the protection of confidentiality as requested by the natural or legal person who supplied any of the information contained in the document or as required by the legislation of the Member State which supplied any of that information.

  1. Access to a Council document may be refused in order to protect the confidentiality of the Council's proceedings.

Article 5

The Secretary-General shall reply on behalf of the Council to applications for access to Council documents, except in the cases referred to in Article 7 (3), in which the reply shall come from the Council.

Article 6

Any application for access to a Council document shall be examined by the relevant departments of the General Secretariat, which shall suggest what action is to be taken on it.

Article 7

  1. The applicant shall be informed in writing within a month by the relevant departments of the General Secretariat either that his application has been approved or that the intention is to reject it. In the latter case the applicant shall also be informed of the reasons for this intention and that he has one month to make a confirmatory application for that position to be reconsidered, failing which he will be deemed to have withdrawn his original application.
  2. Failure to reply to an application within a month of submission shall be equivalent to a refusal, except where the applicant makes a confirmatory application, as referred to above, within the following month.
  3. Any decision to reject a confirmatory application, which shall be taken within a month of submission of such application, shall state the grounds on which it is based. The applicant shall be notified of the decision in writing as soon as possible and at the same time informed of the content of Articles 138e and 173 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, relating respectively to the conditions for referral to the Ombudsman by natural persons and review by the Court of justice of the legality of Council acts.
  4. Failure to reply within a month of submission of the confirmatory application shall be equivalent to a refusal.

Article 8

This Decision shall apply with due regard for provisions governing the protection of classified information.

Article 9

This Decision shall be reviewed after two years of operation. In 1995 the Secretary-General shall submit a report on the implementation of this Decision in 1994 and 1995, in preparation for that review.

Article 10

This Decision shall take effect on 1 January 1994.


Appendix 2:  New Regulation on access to EU documents came into operation on 3 December 2001


Appendix 3: Useful addresses and websites

Council of the European Union

To apply for Council documents write to:

The General Secretariat,
The Council,
The European Union,
175, rue de la Loi,
B-1048 Bruxelles,

To search the Council of the European Union: Register of documents

European Commission

For information on how to obtain access to Commission documents write to:

The Secretariat-General of the European Commission,
Unit SG/C/2 "Europe and the Citizen 1",
N-9, 2/11,
Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200,
B-1049 Bruxelles,

e-mail request to:

To search the European Commission: Public register of documents

European Parliament

Requests for documents may be submitted : by e-mail to : or
by normal mail to :

European Parliament,
Service Registre,
L-2929 Luxembourg.

To search the European Parliament: Public register of documents


PO Box 1516,
London N16 0EW,

tel: 00 44 208 802 1882 (international) 0208 802 1882 (UK)
fax: 00 44 208 880 1727 (international) 0208 880 1727 (UK)

Statewatch maintains four "Observatories" on access to EU documents:

Freedom of Information in the EU: Statewatch site with all the background news and documents on access to documents plus a new Observatory on case law

Statewatch Observatory on EU Freedom of Information - Case Law: Observatory contains summaries and links to the full-text of court decisions on access to EU documents

Secret Europe: Full background documentation and analysis on access to EU documents, openness & secrecy in the EU. Including "Essays for an Open Europe" and the ongoing Call for an Open Europe

Observatory on adoption of the new Regulation on access to EU documents: Statewatch Observatory on the adoption of the new Regulation on access to EU documents: all the documentation from the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission leading to the new Regulation on citizens' access to EU documents

Appendix 4: Select bibliography

Select bibliography

Access to European Union Information: an element of citizenship and a neglected constitutional right, Deirdre Curtin and Herman Meijers, 1994.

Annual Reports for 1996-2001, the European Ombudsman. Contact: The European Ombudsman, 1, avenue du President Robert Schuman, B.P.403, F-67000 Strasbourg Cedex, France

Basic texts on transparency, the Council of the European Union, December 1996. Contact: The Secretary-General, The Council, European Union, 175 rue de la Loi, B-1048, Bruxelles, Belgium

The Commission as Sorcerer's Apprentice? Reflections on EU Public Administration and the Role of Information Technology in Holding Bureaucracy Accountable, Deirdre Curtin in: C.Joerges, Y.Meny. J.Weiler (eds.) Mountain or Molehill? A Critical Appraisal of the Commission White Paper on Governance, initiative of EUI and New York School of Law.

Council Regulation (EEC, Euratom) No 354/83 of 1 February 1983 concerning the opening to the public of the historical archives of the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community, Official Journal, no L 43, 15.2.83.

Democracy, migrants and the police in the European Union: the 1996 IGC and beyond, Standing Committee of experts in international immigration, refugee and criminal law, Utrecht, 1997. See Chapter 2 by Deirdre Curtin and Herman Meijers, "The Principle of Open Government in Schengen and the European Union: Democratic Retrogression?"

The Developing Right of Citizen Access to Information on EU Aylum and Immigration Decision-Making, Deirdre Curtin in: C. Harlow and E. Guild (eds.), Implementing Amsterdam, (2001) Oxford: Hart Publishers, pp. 34-63.

"Essays for an Open Europe", Tony Bunyan, Deirdre Curtin and Aidan White. European Federation of Journalists, November 2000.

"The New Regulation on Access to Documents - a critical analysis" by Steve Peers in the current "Handbook on European Law"

Openness and transparency in the European Union, edited by Veerle Deckmyn and Ian Thomson for the European Institute of Public Administration, 1998. Collection of conference contributions

Official secrets law in the European Community?, Briefing paper, Statewatch, May 1992.

Openness and transparency: Meaningful or meaningless? Access to information in the European Union, papers from a Conference organised by the European Information Association, 4 December 1996

Postnational democracy: the European Union in search of a political philosophy, Deirdre Curtin, inaugural lecture at Utrecht University, 1997. A revised and expanded version is published by Kluwer, ISBN 90-411-0447-x

Proposal for a Council Regulation (EEC) on the security measures applicable to classified information produced or transmitted in connection with EEC or Euratom activities, COM(92) 56 final, 24.2.92.

Public access to documents after the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty: Much Ado About Nothing? Paper by Ulf Öberg, available on

The principles of transparency: a comparative overview on the legislation of the EU-Member States and the Rules applied by Community institutions, Working Paper from the Directorate General for Research of the European Parliament, January 1999 (ref: Political Series: POLI 106)

Special Report by the European Ombudsman following the own initiative inquiry into public acess to documents held by Community Institutions and Bodies, presented to the European Parliament on 17 December 1997

Report on the Special Report by the European Ombudsman to the European Parliament following his own-initiative inquiry into public access to documents, Committee on Petitions, Rapporteur: Mrs Astrid Thors, 2.7.98 (ref: PE 226.263/fin)

Secrecy and openness in the EU, Tony Bunyan. Kogan Page, 1999. European Dossier Series, London European Research Centre.


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