Did EU know? Council documents and how to find them

Did EU know? Council documents and how to find them

Did EU know? is our series on the European Union, its institutions and processes, and their jargon. You may find the other articles here

As we mentioned in one of our previous articles in the “Did EU know…” series, the Council of the European Union (short “the Council”) is not the most transparent of the three main EU institutions. In contrary, it can be a real chore to find the relevant documents and information about the status of the negotiations.

We often compare the Council to a “black hole” – as long as the Commission and the Parliament are concerned, the information is public and relatively easy to access. But as soon as the decision-making procedure reaches the stage of the Council, things get more difficult and we do not know what is going on. And this is, in fact, the most important stage of the procedure where many decisions are taken that can weaken the proposed law.

But there are official ways to get hold of documents related to Council meetings. Obviously you can also use the “inofficial” ways contacting staff of national Ministries, the Commission, the Parliament, or the Permanent Representations. This is how you can access Council documents vial the “official” channels on the Council website:

  • Check the webpage of the Council’s “Preparatory Bodies”. They are the working groups on technical (policy officer/advisor) level that work on the content of the draft law. On transport policy for example you have different working groups, land transport, aviation, or for intermodal questions and networks.

The meetings are not public and there are no minutes. As most decisions are already taken in those so-called “technical meetings”, they are very important. Only very few items related to each new law are discussed on a higher level of the Ambassadors or Ministers, usually only if they are of political nature. What you can find online are Progress Reports, Working Documents, and draft agendas.

On the website you can find those documents but often they are uploaded with a delay.

  • You can also search the Council’s online document register. It is not very user friendly, though, and you have to know exactly what you are looking for.
  • The easiest and fastest way to get recent Council documents (if they are public), is via the “Request a Document” form. It seems like an unnecessary complication but you can e-mail them and they usually reply within a couple of days, sending you directly the document you want. You don’t need to know the exact title and can for example ask for “the latest working document related to the land transport working group”.

For those who are really interested it might be useful to know that the Council website has many more documents: press releases, legislation, documents related to intergovernmental conferences, etc. dating back more than 30 years.