Ministers' Deputies / Bureau
    Information documents

    CM/Bur/Del(2003)19 9 September 2003
    ———————————————

    Declassification of documents

    ———————————————

    The Deputies have taken several decisions regarding transparency of the Committee of Ministers' work and public access to Council of Europe documents. In particular, they

    - at their 519bis meeting (4 November 1994), decided that their decisions would not be classified "restricted", unless the Committee explicitly decided otherwise in a specific case and encouraged the Secretariat to make more frequent use of the "unclassified" category for documents which posed no particular problem (CM/Del/Dec(94)519bis/1.3 - see Appendix 1);

    - at their 661st meeting (24-26 February and 1 March 1999), decided to “make the agendas of their meetings public a week in advance” (CM/Del/Dec(99)661/1.8, para. 2 – see Appendix 2);

    - at their 735th meeting (20 December 2000), decided to declassify all documents classified “restricted” one year after their date of issue, with the exception of those concerning “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings (CM/Del/Dec(2000)735/1.5a, paras. 7 and 8 – see Appendix 3).

    In Resolution Res(2001)6 (see Appendix 4), the Committee of Ministers resolved that where documents relating to “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings were concerned, the Secretariat would distribute a list of documents reaching their declassification date, thus allowing member states the possibility to oppose such declassification. The Committee also noted that, in application of the extension of its new policy on access to documents to all of its documentation, the principle of publicity of the results of its activities (particularly the texts adopted and the decisions taken) would be generally applied to all its meetings, unless a decision to the contrary was taken on an ad hoc basis by the Committee of Ministers.

    In accordance with the above, since 2001, agendas of the Deputies meeting have been declassified one week before the meeting date and have been made available to the public via the CM web site.The public have not, of course, had access to restricted documents linked to the agendas. In addition, the Secretariat has been declassifying “restricted” documents one year after their date of issue and placing them on the CM's public web site. However, this declassification was never systematic due to the fact that the restricted and public websites were until recently distinct and a time-consuming procedure was required.

    Since the launch of the new CM site, the declassification procedure is far easier (mainly due to the fact that all the former websites have been merged into a single site). Declassification of documents will therefore now take place on a systematic basis, according to the rules adopted by the CM in Resolution Res(2001)6.

    Any delegation wishing to prevent the automatic declassification of a document – whether or not this relates to “human rights” or “monitoring” meetings - may do so by informing the Secretariat within 12 months of its date of issue. The Secretariat will periodically check whether an embargo on a document should stand.

    Appendix 1

    519bis meeting - 4 November 1994

    Item 1.3

    1.3
    DECLASSIFICATION OF DOCUMENTS OF THE
    COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
    (GR-A(94)10)

    Decisions

    The Deputies

    1. decided that in the future their decisions will not be classified "restricted", unless the Committee explicitly decides otherwise in a specific case. It is understood that the decisions concerning the application of Articles 32 and 54 of the European Convention on Human Rights which are currently classified "confidential" would continue to be classified as such;

    2. encouraged the Secretariat to make more frequent use of the "unclassified" category for documents which pose no particular problem;

    3. adopted the Procedure for granting public access to Council of Europe documents, replacing that adopted at their 337th meeting (September 1991, item 9, Appendix VIII), as it appears at Appendix 3 to the present volume of Decisions.

    Appendix 2

    661st meeting – 24-26 February and 1 March 1999

    Item 1.8

    RAPPORTEUR GROUP ON INFORMATION POLICY (GR-I)
    REPORT BY THE CHAIR
    (GR-I(98)28; GT-SAGES(99)CB2)

    Decisions
    The Deputies
    1. noted the report by the Chair of the Rapporteur Group on Information Policy (GR-I) on the progress of her group's work;
    2. decided to make the agendas of their meetings public a week in advance;
    3. encouraged their Chair to establish appropriate contacts with the press before and after meetings or decisions whose nature and importance warranted drawing public and media attention to them;
    4. invited the Chairs of their Rapporteur and/or Working Groups, as well as their Rapporteurs, to develop - in consultation with the Chair - appropriate contacts (e.g. with parliamentarians, local and regional authorities, specialised ministerial conferences and NGOs) to enhance the efficiency of their work and the visibility of the Committee of Ministers.

    Appendix 3

    735th meeting – 20 December 2000

     

    Item 1.5a

     
    Rapporteur on information policy (RAP-INF)
     
    a. Report on the implementation of Resolution Res(2000)2 on the Council of Europe's information strategy
    (Resolution Res(2000)2, RAP-INF(2000)3 revised, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 14)
     
     
    Decisions
     
    The Deputies
     
    1. took note of the report by their Rapporteur on information policy as reproduced in document RAP-INF(2000)14;
     
    2. in this connection, welcomed the action and initiatives taken since the adoption of Resolution Res(2000)2 on the Council of Europe's information strategy, and invited their Rapporteur on information policy to develop the dialogue and co-operation established on the subject between the four main Council of Europe bodies in order to pursue the active and effective implementation of Resolution Res(2000)2 in co-operation with the Secretary General;
     
    3. took particular note of the steps taken by the Committee of Ministers Secretariat in line with the Committee of Ministers information policy and the guidelines proposed for the future, as set out in documents RAP-INF(2000)3 revised, 10 and 11, and encouraged the Secretariat to pursue its work along the lines indicated, in co-operation with the Chair and the Rapporteur on information policy;
     
    4. took note of the stage reached in the implementation of Resolution (1999)9 on the status of Council of Europe Information Offices, and renewed their appeal to the member states concerned for the resolution to be fully implemented as soon as possible;
     
    5. noted that further to the decision of principle taken by the Secretary General and the favourable opinion of the member states recorded at the meeting of 8 December 2000 held under the aegis of the Rapporteur on information policy, publication of the Council of Europe's official gazette would cease as from January 2001;
     
    6. took note of the Secretariat report on application of the procedure for granting public access to documents issued with a security classification adopted at their 641st meeting (15 and 18 September 1998), as reproduced in document RAP-INF(2000)9, and approved the measures proposed in this respect by their Rapporteur on information policy in document RAP-INF(2000)8;
     
    7. accordingly decided, as from 1 January 2001, to carry out a new policy of access to Committee of Ministers documents, based on the following principles:
     
    i. documents not subject to any particular classification would be public;
    ii. documents classified “restricted” would be declassified a year after being issued;
    iii. documents classified “confidential” would be declassified ten years after being issued;
    iv. documents classified “secret” would be declassified thirty years after being issued;
     

    8. decided to apply this policy to all Committee of Ministers documents with the exception of those concerning “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings (which would continue to be covered by the present rules until specific decisions were taken with regard to them), subject to compliance with the rules in force on the protection of personal data;
     
    9. decided, in accordance with the principles set out in decisions 7 and 8 above, to declassify as of 1 January 2001 all documents classified “confidential” issued prior to 31 December 1990 and all documents classified “restricted” issued prior to 31 December 1999, except those concerning “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings;
     
    10. decided that as from 1 January 2001 explanatory memoranda, which are drawn up under the Secretariat's responsibility to make Council of Europe conventions and recommendations easier to understand, will be made public at the same time as the conventions and recommendations they accompany;
     
    11. invited their Rapporteur on information policy to pursue his efforts to extend the above policy of access to documents to the Council of Europe as a whole, with a view to framing a consistent policy of access to the Organisation's archives based on the principles established in Recommendation (2000)13 on a European policy on access to archives;
     
    12. decided to communicate the report by their Rapporteur on information policy, at the same time as these decisions, to the Parliamentary Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the bodies in charge of the Council of Europe partial agreements and all steering committees. 
     

    Appendix 4

    COUNCIL OF EUROPE
    COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

    Resolution Res(2001)6
    on access to Council of Europe documents

    (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers
    on 12 June 2001
    at the 756th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

    The Committee of Ministers,

    Having regard to the Statute of the Council of Europe;

    Having regard to its Resolution (2000)2 on the Council of Europe's information strategy;

    Reaffirming its wish to endow the Council of Europe with an active and consistent information policy, based on the principle that “transparency is the rule and confidentiality the exception”;

    Referring to its decisions of 20 December 2000 introducing a new policy on access to Committee of Ministers documents with effect from 1 January 2001, and wishing, in the light of implementation of that decision, to extend this policy to the whole of the Council of Europe;

    Referring also to its decisions of 17 April 2001 concerning the improvement of transparency in “Human Rights” meetings;

    Having regard to the relevant texts adopted in this field by the Council of Europe for its member states, particularly the Declaration on the freedom of expression and information, of 29 April 1982, Recommendation No. R (81) 19 on the access to information held by public authorities and Recommendation No. R (2000) 13 on a European policy on access to archives;

    Convinced that the application by the Council of Europe of the principles and standards which it lays down for its member states is a fundamental element of the Organisation's credibility and consistency;

    Welcoming the support given by the Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the positive results of the contacts made with all Council of Europe bodies;

    On the basis of the report presented by the Rapporteur of the Ministers' Deputies on information policy,

    Resolves as follows:

    Committee of Ministers documents

    The Committee of Ministers recalls the rules governing access to its documents (except those relating to “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings) since 1 January 2001, namely:

    i. documents not subject to any particular classification are public;

    ii. documents classified “restricted” are declassified a year after being issued;

    iii. documents classified “confidential” are declassified ten years after being issued;

    iv. documents classified “secret” are declassified thirty years after being issued;

    and the declassification measures adopted on 20 December 2000 so as to ensure consistency between access to the documents issued before 1 January 2001 and access to those issued since that date.

    In the light of the implementation of this new policy since 1 January 2001, the Committee of Ministers resolves:

    - to extend application of the aforementioned rules to all its documentation, subject – where documents relating to “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings are concerned – to advance distribution by the Secretariat of the list of documents reaching their declassification date and to the possibility for member states to oppose such declassification; 1

    - to finish the process of making consistent conditions for access to documents issued since 1 January 2001 and those issued before that date, through the specific measures detailed in the appendix.

    The Committee of Ministers notes that, in application of the extension of its new policy on access to documents to all of its documentation, the principle of publicity of the results of its activities (particularly the texts adopted and the decisions taken) will be generally applied to all its meetings, unless a decision to the contrary is taken on an ad hoc basis by the Committee of Ministers.

    Documents of the steering committees and the bodies subordinate to the Committee of Ministers

    The Committee of Ministers notes that the rules on access to Committee of Ministers documents adopted on 20 December 2000 are directly applicable to all the steering committees and the bodies subordinate to the Committee of Ministers. It notes that the policy on access to documents laid down on that occasion by the Committee of Ministers has therefore been applied by these bodies since 1 January 2001.

    Documents of the Partial Agreements of the Council of Europe

    The Committee of Ministers notes that the policy on access to documents laid down in the present resolution will be applied by the Partial Agreements of the Council of Europe, without prejudice to any more favourable rules on access already applied by certain Partial Agreements, and subject to duly reasoned specific exceptions which may be adopted by the competent governing bodies.

    Documents of the independent monitoring bodies

    In the light of the contacts made with the committees under the European Social Charter, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Committee of Ministers notes their support for the policy on access to documents laid down in the present resolution, as well as their willingness to implement the policy, subject to compliance with the conventional or statutory provisions applicable to each of them.

    Documents of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights

    The Committee of Ministers is pleased to note that the principle of transparency is already applied to virtually all the documents of its aforementioned main institutional partners within the Council of Europe. It reaffirms its will to continue co-operation with them, within the framework set by the present resolution, with a view not only to more open access to Council of Europe documents, but also to a broader dissemination of these documents to interested circles and to the public in general.

    The Committee of Ministers gives its support in this respect to the Secretary General's efforts to redefine and reactivate the Council of Europe's archives policy.

    Internal documents

    Within the framework of the current redefinition of the Council of Europe's archives policy, the Committee of Ministers invites the Secretary General to lay down rules on access to internal Secretariat documentation2, ensuring that these are consistent with the policy on access to official Council of Europe documents laid down by the present resolution.

    Implementation of the present resolution

    The present resolution is applicable from the date of its adoption. When it is implemented, the Secretariat will ensure that the rules on the protection of personal data are strictly complied with. In the event of any doubt about whether or not a document is public, use may be made of the procedure for access to classified documents set up by the Committee of Ministers in September 1998, particularly in respect of documents – other than those of the Committee of Ministers – which have not been the subject of specific decisions with a view to achieving consistency between access to documents issued before and access to those issued after adoption of the present resolution.

    Appendix

    Measures intended to achieve consistency between access to the documents issued after adoption of the present resolution and access to documents issued before its adoption

    The Committee of Ministers instructs the Secretariat to carry out declassification as follows:

    i. on 1 January 2002, of all documents classified “restricted” issued between 1 January and 31 December 2000 and of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1991, as well as of the documents classified “confidential” issued prior to 1 January 1991 which were not already declassified on 20 December 2000;

    ii. on 1 January 2003, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1992;

    iii. on 1 January 2004, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1993;

    iv. on 1 January 2005, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1994;

    v. on 1 January 2006, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1995;

    vi. on 1 January 2007, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1996;

    vii. on 1 January 2008, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1997;

    viii. on 1 January 2009, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1998;

    ix. on 1 January 2010, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 1999;

    x. on 1 January 2011, of all documents classified “confidential” issued between 1 January and 31 December 2000;

    xi. on 1 July 2011, of the documents classified “confidential” not already declassified with effect from 1 January 2011 in application of the rules on access to Committee of Ministers documents adopted on 20 December 2000;

    subject to compliance with the specific arrangements applied to the declassification of documents relating to “human rights” and “monitoring” meetings, and without prejudice to any ad hoc decisions which might be taken prior to the deadlines indicated above with a view to speedier declassification of certain of these documents, if this were deemed useful or desirable.

Note 1 Opposition by one or more member states to the declassification of one or more documents is communicated – with the reasons for this opposition – to the Committee of Ministers, which sets a new date for the declassification of the document(s) concerned, within the limit of the maximum period of 30 years laid down for the declassification of documents classified “secret”.
Note 2 “Internal documentation” means any content – other than official documents of the various Council of Europe organs, bodies and committees – whatever its medium (written on paper or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or audiovisual recording) concerning a matter relating to the policies, activities and decisions falling within the Organisation's sphere of responsibility – including sent or received correspondence with the outside.


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