SECURITY OF DOCUMENTS
Draft Council Decision on the adoption of Council security regulations.
||Article 207 EC; simple majority
||19 December 2000|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||19 December 2000|
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 21 December 2000 and SEM of 18 January 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||Cleared; but request to be kept informed
12.1 The security of information held by
the Council is presently governed by Council Decision 98/319/EC
of 27 April 1998.
Measures for the protection of classified information applicable
to the General Secretariat of the Council, and on security clearance
procedures for officials, are set out in a Decision of the Secretary
General of 27 July 2000
and in a Decision of the Secretary General of the Council No.
433/97 of 22 May 1997 respectively.
12.2 A large proportion of EU documents,
especially those emanating from the Commission, are published,
and access to unpublished Council documents by members of the
public is governed by Council Decision 93/731/EC.
Nevertheless, some documents held by the Council remain sensitive,
notably in the field of the common security and defence policy,
and the security arrangements relating to them have been reviewed.
12.3 The draft Decision proposes new security
arrangements which would replace the existing measures. It takes
the form of a Council Decision approving a set of Council security
regulations. The Decision is stated to be without prejudice to
Article 255 EC and to instruments implementing that provision,
and also to existing practices in Member States with regard to
informing their national Parliaments on the activities of the
12.4 Article 1 of the draft Decision approves
a set of security regulations annexed to the Decision. Article
2(1) requires the Secretary General/High Representative to take
appropriate measures to ensure that, when handling EU classified
information, the security regulations are respected within the
General Secretariat of the Council by its officials and other
servants as well as by external contractors and staff seconded
to the General Secretariat.
12.5 Article 2(2) requires Member States
to take appropriate measures 'in accordance with national arrangements'
to ensure that the security regulations are respected within their
services and premises.
12.6 The security regulations prescribe
basic principles and minimum standards of security as well as
dealing with the classification and marking of documents, physical
security measures, security clearance for officials and the transmission
and storage of EU classified information.
The Government's views
12.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum, the
Minister for Europe (Mr Keith Vaz) comments as follows:
"Recent developments, especially in European
defence, have prompted the EU to look again at the Council's security
Regulations. We need to ensure that the EU has sufficiently stringent
security arrangements in place to look after sensitive documents,
and to allow it to conclude the necessary agreements with NATO
to share information. This is essential if the EU is to develop
an effective military crisis management capacity. But the new
Regulations will also mean that sensitive documents in other fields
justice and home affairs, for example, are kept sufficiently
12.8 On the questions of implementation
and compatibility with UK arrangements, the Minister makes the
"We have ensured that the obligations flowing
from the Decision leave Member States in the driving seat when
it comes to dealing with breaches (allowing, for example, minor
breaches to be dealt with by disciplinary rather than criminal
"The Regulations themselves are comprehensive
and conform to UK and NATO standards (and are still subject to
12.9 We note that the proposed Decision
is without prejudice to existing practices in Member States with
regard to informing national Parliaments on the activities of
the European Union. This important reservation being noted, we
accept the need for adequate security arrangements for the handling
of classified information within the Council, especially in relation
to defence issues.
12.10 We note the Minister's remark that
the security regulations are still subject to 'technical fine-tuning'.
We are content to clear the draft Decision, but ask the Minister
to inform us in good time if any important change is to be made
to the security regulations before their approval.
26 OJ No. L 140, 12.5.98, p.12. Back
OJ No. C 239, 23.8.00, p.1. Back
OJ No L 340, 31.12.93, p.43. Back