PositionControversy over the handling of classified documents: European Union - Brief Article

The draft Regulation was initially put forward by the European Commission on 26 January 2000 (see European Report No 2470). Its scope was scaled down by an autonomous Council Decision (2000/527/EC) taken on 14 August with the aim of scrapping the public register of classified documents ("top secret", "secret" and "confidential") on the Common European Security and Defence Policy (CESDP). This caused bitter controversy and the Netherlands challenged the Decision at the European Court of Justice the following month. The European Parliament followed suit in October (see European Report No 2537). After long drawn out negotiations with the Secretary-General of the Council, Javier Solana, and the French Presidency, a solution was sketched out consisting of providing restricted access to classified CESDP documents for a selected group of MEPs (see European Report No 2544). This was the option selected by the rapporteur for the draft Regulation, Michael Cashman, (PES, United Kingdom) but despite receiving broad support, the formal adoption of the report was postponed at the 16 November plenary session (see European Report No 2546).The fact that no Opinion was given on first reading enabled the Presidency to remove the issue from the agenda of the General Affairs Council on 20 November. It was highly unlikely that a common position would be reached in any case, given the lack of progress in the Council's Information Committee (see European Report No 2541). The French Presidency used this breathing space to put the finishing touches to a draft compromise which had been acceptable to most countries at the previous meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the EU (on 20 December), clearing the way for negotiations under the Swedish Presidency.Three main issues still need to be settled by the Council:- the right of third parties: the provisional compromise distinguishes between the situation of Member States (in line with Declaration 35 annexed to the Treaty stipulating that a Member State can request a derogation to the Article 255 on access to documents; the situation of so-called "sensitive" documents for which the author must authorise...

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