EU institutions produce thousands of documents at various stages of the decision making process which need to be carefully interpreted and analysed in the appropriate institutional context. The availability of EU documents is regulated by the right of public ACCESS to documents of the EU institutions (EU regulation No 1049/2001).
Documents less than 30 years old can be open to public access (EU regulation No 1049/2001).
Documents more than 30 years old are open to public access (EU Regulation 1700/2003). Each institution and body has its own Historical Archives' Service to manage its documents and files throughout their lifecycle but not all of them have publicly accessible databases. In addition to the institutional archives, the Historical Archives of the European Union based in Florence is the official archives for the historical documents (older than 30 years), and documents less tha 30 years found in over 150 private archival deposits from eminent European politicians, movements and associations.
Classified documents (restricted, confidential, secret, top secret) and documents containing sensitive information (personal data, business data, etc.) can only be disclosed once they have been declassified. These documents remain unaccessible as long as the exceptions to their disclosure last (articles 2 and 3).
EU documents available online are not centralised in a single database or website.
(selected) EU databases of official documents:
Treaties Office database
Database by the Network of the Presidents of the European Supreme Courts
FRA Case-law Database
Historical Archives of the European Union (Florence)
ArchiPlus (European Commission)
EUR-Lex provides direct free access to European Union law. For a quick overview of the entire site consult the EUR-Lex site map.
Contents of the database:
1 – Official Journal + Special editions (1952-on)
2 – EU law and related documents: Treaties, EU Legislation, Consolidated legislation, EFTA documents, Preparatory acts (COM/JOIN/SWD/SEC documents), EU case law, Parliamentary questions and International agreements
3 – N-Lex (National law database)
4 – Legislative procedures (Former PreLex)
5 – More includes directories of EU legislation in force with divisions into further sub-sections.
List of directories:
OEIL, European Parliament Legislative Observatory is a database that monitors the inter-institutional decision-making process in the European Union and contains all procedures still ongoing and all procedures concluded since the beginning of the fourth legislative term in July 1994. As a result, the database contains documents originating also from institutions other than the European Parliament.
The search engine finds text which forms part of the procedure files (titles, references, summaries, etc.) but does not search the content of the individual documents linked to those files.
EUR-Lex and OEIL are to be used in a complementary function to trace the progress of legislative proposals.
CVRIA and InfoCVRIA database give access to the texts of judgments, opinions and orders of the cases brought before the Court of Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal.
CVRIA search form includes a limited number of search fields: Case No., Names of the parties and Dates. The site also provides:
InfoCVRIA search form includes a large number of fields (dates of certain stages of the proceedings, the subject matter of the case, the type of proceedings, the legal acts of the European Union cited in the case-law, the nationality of the parties, etc.) enabling precise searching in case-law.
DORIE (DOcumentation et Recherche sur les questions Institutionnelles Européennes) is a database providing access to the collection of documents put together over the years by the unit in the Secretariat-General responsible for institutional issues. It contains legal instruments adopted by the Institutions, minutes of meetings of European Institutions and bodies, press releases, newspaper articles, speeches by European leaders and internal Commission notes.
Of notice are a selection of documents relating to the various intergovernmental conferences (including the 2002-03 European Convention).
Treaties Office database of the European External Action Service contains all the bilateral and multilateral international treaties or agreements concluded by the European Union (EU), the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) and the former European Communities (EC, EEC, ECSC).
Contents of the database:
IPEX, contains opinions from parliaments on or about draft EU legislation. IPEX also contains a Calendar of interparliamentary cooperation meetings and events in the European Union and a section on national Parliaments and the European Parliament providing links to relevant websites and databases in the field of interparliamentary cooperation, as well as specific procedures in EU Parliaments. IPEX is also hosting the EU Speakers website.
Two databases of the Association des Conseils d'État et des juridictions administratives suprêmes de l'Union européenne a.i.s.b.l. / Association of the Councils of State and Supreme Administrative Jurisdictions of the European Union:
Dec.Nat contains some 29,000 references to national decisions concerning Community law from 1959 up to the present day.
Contents of the database:
the national case law regarding European Union law;
the reference to annotations and comments in books and articles related to national decisions and judgements delivered under the preliminary ruled procedure by the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning those matters.
JuriFast contains the references and the full text of:
- the "preliminary files" with the preliminary question submitted to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court's answer to this question, the national decision(s) following this answer
- other national decisions on the interpretation of European Union law (decisions without reference).
JURE, a database created by the European Commission, contains case law delivered by courts in contracting states (EU Member States and if applicable Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and the EU Court of Justice on jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters and on the recognition and enforcement of judgments in a State other than the one where the judgment was passed. This includes case law on relevant international conventions (i.e. 1968 Brussels Convention, 1988 Lugano Convention) as well as EU and Member State case law.
Database by the Network of the Presidents of the European Supreme Courts, a meta-search engine of National Case Law created by the Network of the Presidents of the European Supreme Courts. It has been released in April 2007 and allows to simultaneously query several search engines of a number of national databases (and also of some candidate countries) containing the case law of the supreme courts of those Member States.
FRA Case-law Database, of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, provides a compilation of European Court of Justice (ECJ) and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law with direct references to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It also contains a selection of national case law with direct references to the Charter from all EU Member States.
The data include a formal reference to the decisions, judgments and opinions, an abstract in English, excerpts of the paragraphs where the Charter is quoted, and if available a link to the full text document.
CODICES, a database created by the so-called Venice Commission at the Council of Europe, contains case law on constitutional matters not only of EU Member States but also of other members of the Council of Europe.
EU Bookshop is the official digital library of EU institutions such as the European Commission, European Parliament, Council of the EU, EU agencies and other bodies. It contains 110,000 titles and corresponding PDFs, e-books of official publications, reports, studies and more in official languages of the EU dating back to 1952.
Historical Archives of the EU (Florence, Italy) are administered by the European University Institute of Florence. Documents from the European Institutions – as well as those of pro-European movements and personalities – are available for consultation. Holdings include:
● 169 fonds, 30 of which are fully digitized (total of 14.000 digitized archival files) mainly private fonds such as Alcide De Gasperi, Max Kohnstamm and Altiero Spinelli
● 12.000 photographs
● 600 interviews (Oral history programs)
● web archive of European institutions (europa.eu) and European agencies: an archive within the Archive that has great research potentials.
Navigating the Historical Archives of EU database: Archival descriptions can be found at each level of the hierarchy according to the material/unit described: 1. Fonds/Collection; 2. Series; 3. File.
Search the database with keywords but remember to use contextual words in the language used for the description of the archival units: in most cases the language used reflects the language found in the source. Try the same search in more than one language (at least French and English), and refine your search with facets (archival fonds, material type, years).
Historical Archives of the European Commission database, ArchiPlus gives access to files over 30 years old and open to public access – more than 40 000 references (archival fonds, minutes of meetings and speeches).
A comprehensive list of Historical Archives of the EU institutions can be found on the europa.eu website.
EUBookshop the digital library and official depository of EU official publications
EU official publications, such as Annual Reports, Special Reports, Bulletins, Guidelines, etc. are available online on the EUBookshop platform, a digital library with publications dating back to 1952 which contains 110,000 titles and 235,000 corresponding electronic versions (PDFs, e-books) in more than 50 languages, including the 24 official languages of the EU.
EUBookshop titles are directly accessible via EUI Library Articles+ (EBSCO discovery tool).