Public access to Council documents: 2020 report

The Council today approved its annual report on the implementation of Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to documents.

In 2020 the activities of the Council were influenced by the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 crisis. As of mid-March 2020, the Council needed to adapt its functioning and decision-making process during this crisis in order to ensure institutional continuity. This included a temporary derogation from the Council’s Rules of Procedure in order to make it easier to use the ordinary written procedure, the organisation of informal video conferences of ministers as well as informal video conferences of the members of working parties.

The report shows that over 440 000 original-language documents were listed in the public register on 31 December 2020. Of these documents,  more than 71% are public and available for download.

In 2020, more than 22 000 original-language documents were added to the register, of which almost 73% are public. The Council’s public register was consulted nearly 400 000 times.

Anyone can request access to documents listed in the public register which are not yet public. Access can only be refused on the basis of one of the exceptions provided for in Regulation 1049/2001. These include among others the need to protect the institution’s decision-making process and the public interest as regards defence and military matters and international relations. If access is refused at the initial stage, a confirmatory application may be submitted.

In 2020, the Council received 2 321 initial requests for access to documents and 26 confirmatory applications, which required 13 382 documents to be analysed which represents an important increase in comparison to the previous years.

At the initial stage, full access was granted to 11 254 documents (84.1 %) and partial access to 542 documents (4 %). Access was refused to 1 586 documents (11.9 %).

Following confirmatory applications, full access was granted to 35 documents and partial access to 31 documents. The Council confirmed that access should be refused to 52 documents.

The requested documents were related to a number of policy areas, most notably justice and home affairs (20.4%), economic and monetary policy (16.7 %), Common Foreign and Security Policy (13.1 %) and General policy questions (6.7%).

The requests came mainly from the academic world (39%) and from representatives of various civil society and private sector organisations (20.5%).

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