The Globalex website at the Hauser Global Law School at the New York University School of Law has just published European Union: A Guide to Tracing Working Documents
"In legal research, particularly in international and comparative law, it is often necessary to trace working documents, or 'travaux préparatoires,' in order to get a clear view of how negotiations have affected the original draft of a document. The status of these documents varies greatly between different countries and organisations - while governments in some countries have long had a culture of openness, others have always preferred secrecy. Reports or articles may often refer to documents to which the author has had privileged access; often the sources are not indicated and this can be very frustrating for researchers (...)"
"The situation in the European Union is further complicated because some of the working documents involved originate in the European institutions, while others come from individuals or governments in the member states. In the formative years of the European Communities, which later evolved into the European Union, documents had a relatively informal status. Although many documents relating to the early treaties have been deposited in the official archives, they are not generally available in any other form. Because the proceedings of the institutions and of legislative or treaty negotiations have always been multi-lingual, many documents will only be available in French or German, although official documents were often translated into English even before the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community in 1973."
"Success in tracing working papers depends to a great extent on how complete a reference has been given and whether a document has ever had an official status. Many papers presented at conferences or meetings will have been circulated previously, but the discussions will generally only be summarised at a later date and are unlikely to be publicly available. As working papers generally relate either to the legislative process or to policy development, they will frequently be allocated multiple references, depending on the context, and this can cause confusion (...)"
"This article aims to clarify some of the distinctions between different categories of working documents and provides details of some of the databases and collections which are essential for research into the workings of the European Union."
Labels: european union, legal research and writing, treaties