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Transparency of Council proceedings

As from the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty in May 1999, specific provisions on public access to documents of the institutions are laid down in Article 255 of the EC Treaty . This Article, which with the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009 became Article 15(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), constituted the legal basis for Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.

In its Rules of Procedure, the Council of the European Union lays down the conditions under which the public may have access to its documents. Better access is to be provided to documents concerning its legislative function. In particular, "the results of votes and explanations of votes as well as statements in minutes are to be made public". Like the other European institutions, the Council must also make public a register of documents.

As regards deliberations and debates under the codecision procedure, the debates following the Commission's presentation of its draft legislation and the votes (including the final deliberations and explanations of votes) are public. Public debates on general policy and major legislative proposals are also held once per year. Public access is normally ensured by audiovisual means.

In principle, votes, explanations of votes and Council minutes are public when the Council is acting in its legislative role. The results of votes on certain decisions, in particular those relating to the second and third pillars, may also be published, subject to conditions. On the other hand, indicative votes and the adoption of preparatory acts are not made public.

Otherwise, Council deliberations are subject to professional confidentiality.

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