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Transparency and access to documents

General Secretariat

According to the transparency rules as set out in the Lisbon Treaty, EU institutions work as openly and as closely as possible to citizens. Ministers at the Council legislate in public and citizens have a right to request access to Council documents.

Legislative transparency

EU ministers meet in public when they discuss or vote on draft legislative acts.

The Council also meets in public when its ministers debate important issues affecting the EU and its citizens or when they discuss the Council's work programme, the priorities of its Presidency and the Commission's work programmes and policy strategy. 

You can watch the Council's public sessions live in all EU languages via our webcast. Recorded sessions are also available for browsing.

Agendas and calendar of Council meetings

The Council meets in Brussels and Luxembourg (in April, June and October). The meeting agendas of the Council and of most its preparatory bodies are public. 

Minutes and voting results 

When a Council's meeting is public, so are its minutes and therein you can find votes on draft laws, as well as explanations of vote and statements made by member states. In the minutes you can also find information about documents under discussion and the main conclusions reached by the Council.

Voting results  are also public and you can see how individual EU countries voted.

This information is also published in a monthly summary of Council acts. 

Access to documents

Regulation 1049/2001 provides the rules for access to documents. Specific implementing rules for the for the Council are established in annex II to its rules of procedure. These rules also apply to European to to European Council documents.  

The Council moreover publishes an annual report on the application of Regulation 1049/2001. 

Public register of Council documents

You can access Council documents via the public register. It has the contents of or references to official Council documents from 1999 onwards. 

Open data

Since 2015, the Council of the EU participates in the EU open data portal with three datasets:

  • Council votes on legislative acts
  • metadata of the Council's public register
  • metadata of the database on requests for public access to documents

The EU open data portal was launched in December 2012. It is a single point of access to a growing range of data from the EU  institutions and other EU bodies. The data are free for you to use and reuse for commercial or non-commercial purposes, provided that the source is acknowledged.

The EU open data portal aims to promote the innovative use of the data and unleash their economic potential. It also aims to help encourage the transparency and accountability of the EU's institutions and other EU bodies.

Archives

The Council's archives collect and process the documents produced or received by the Council of the European Union in the exercise of its functions. Archives relating to files closed more than 30 years ago are accessible to the public.  

The original documents are sent to the EU's historical archives, which are stored at the European University Institute in Florence. Microfiches and/or electronic copies of the documents can be consulted at the Council's archives in Brussels.

General enquiries

General questions about the organisation, work and activities of the European Council and the Council can be addressed to the public information service. Please note that this service cannot provide legal advice or comment on specific issues.  

You can submit your question in any of the 24 official languages of the EU.