Council Decisions: 1) gives EU member states a "veto" over access to documents 2) new Solana classification code will "contaminate" access

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On Monday (19 March) the General Affairs Council of the Council of the European Union adopted (as "A" points, without debate) two more major changes to the 1993 Decision of access to EU documents - these follow the now infamous "Solana Decision" in July last year. Both pre-empt the discussions on the new code of access to documents which has to be agreed by the Council, Commission and the European Parliament (under Article 255).

The European Parliament was not consulted on either of these Decisions - although the parliament does not have to be consulted it might have been expected to have been in the context of the current discussions and the concept of "loyalty" between the institutions.

The first Decision covers making public automatically the full text of some Council documents which is a positive move. But the same Decision gives EU governments (member states) a right to "veto" access by citizens of documents submitted by them to policy-making discussions in the Council. The Council of the European Union is comprised of the 15 EU member states.

The second Decision completely changes the Council's classification codes to meet NATO demands. Although it is being presented as only covering "Top Secret", "Secret" and "Confidential" documents it also covers the lowest level of classified documents, "Restricted", and completely redefines it. It also extends classifications to all areas of EU activity.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"These Decisions by the Council undermine the discussions on the new code of access. The Council has used the "space" left before a new code is adopted - whenever that will be - to protect the interests of governments and NATO over the citizens' right to know.

The European Parliament now has to think seriously whether the Council is going to honour the commitment in the Amsterdam Treaty and whether it is going to be possible to find a "compromise" solution to the new code of access which will not sell citizens, civil society and democratic accountability down the river."


1st Decision: Council Decision on making certain categories of Council documents available to the public:

Draft text presented by Presidency: Draft (Word 97) Draft (pdf)
Adopted text (doc no: 6258/1/01): Adopted (Word 97) Adopted (pdf)

2nd Decision: Council Decision concerning the adoption of the Council Security Regulations (doc no: 5775/01): Security Regulations (Word 97) Security Regulations (pdf)


Analysis: Decision on making certain categories of Council documents available to the public

The new Decision amends the existing code of access under the 1993 Decision on which there is no obligation to consult the European Parliament. MEPs, however, may be a little surprised to be faced with yet another fait accompli while they are in negotiations with the Council over the new code of access to be introduced under the Amsterdam Treaty (Article 255). The issue of EU member states (as well as "third parties") having a "veto" over public access to documents they submit to the EU decision-making process is one of the main issues under discussion between the Council and the European Parliament.

This controversial decision is a part of a positive initiative by the Swedish Presidency to automatically place the full-text of documents which can be released on the C

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