The amendment to the Decision of the Council on 19 December 1999

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The Decision, agreed by "written procedure" on 14 August 2000 by the EU governments (doc ref: 10702/00) also amends the provisions of "Council Decision on the improvement of information on the Council's legislative activities and the public register of documents". This Decision was one of the distinctive measure adopted under the Finnish Presidency of the EU. The Decision said in Article 2:

"The public register of Council documents shall also include references to the document number and the subject matter of classified documents.

No reference shall be made to the subject matter if disclosure of this information could undermine:

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

- 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."

As from 1 January 1999 the Decision was to be effected (under Article 4). But is was never put into practice. A Council offficial told the European Parliament in June that this was due to "technical reasons". It is now clear that despite the Decision by the Council the Secretary-General had no intention of implementing the Decision in this respect. The Decision of 14 August now inserts a second sub-paragraph as follows:

"The public register of Council documents contains no reference to documents classified TRES SECRET/TOP SECRET or SECRET or CONFIDENTIAL within the meaning of the Decision of the Secretary-General of the Council/High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of 27 July 2000 on measures for the protection of classified information applicable to the General Secretariat of the Council, on matters concerning the security and defence of the Union or one or more of its Member States on military or non-military crisis management."

The intention of the Council Decision of 19 December 1999 was that all EU documents should be listed on the public register and that classified documents should be clearly indicated even though, under one of the listed exceptions, it was quite likely that access would be refused. The principle of listing all documents is an essential safeguard against corruption and the abuse of power by those in authority.

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