Collections and fonds 

[Last update: 26 August 2009]

Central Archives


Reference code:



Central Archives of the Council of Europe

Dates of creation of material:

1949 –

Level of description:



Nearly 3 000 meters of paper archives; more than 10 000 hours of original recordings of audiovisual archives (at 2 October 2009).

Name of creator:

Council of Europe

Administrative History:

Since their creation in 1949 the Archives have been reorganised and moved to different organisational structures on several occasions. In 1950, the Archives, Documents and Mail Offices were placed under the direct authority of the Secretary General’s Private Office (Office Circular no. 52). In 1956, the Archives and Documents Offices were transferred to the Directorate of Studies, while the Mail Office was moved to General Services. By Decision 313 of 25 July 1960, the Registry (Archives) was merged again with the Mail Office and placed under the authority of the Private Office.

When in 1977 the head of Private Office became Director of Administration, the Registry (Archives) moved to the Directorate of Administration. In 1987, the Archives were shifted to the Library and Documentation Division, belonging to the Conferences, Documentation and Informatics Department. When this Department was dissolved in 1990, the Archives were moved with the Library to the newly created Publishing and Documentation Service (SEDDOC) where they became the Information and Documentation Division (INFODOC). In 2000, SEDDOC was dismantled, and the Library and Archives were attached to the Directorate of Communication and Research.

In 2005, the Library and Archives were transferred to Information Technology Department (as of 2007 Directorate of Information Technology) in the Directorate General of Administration and Logistics. Following an internal reorganisation of this Department in April 2006, the Archives became part of the newly created Information Life Cycle Division.

The main functions of Archives are:

- ensuring the lasting survival of records of the Organisation's past;
- allowing the Organisation to continue in the event of information loss or destruction;
- satisfying legal requirements in matters of records preservation;
- providing access to the archival fonds and collections.

The Archives comprise the historical archives, most of which are accessible to the public, and the intermediate archives which are accessible to the departments to which they belong.

For contents, see the specific descriptions of the various collections and fonds.

Conditions governing access:

The main texts governing access to documents of the Council of Europe are compiled on the Archives website.

Finding aids:

For access to specific documents, see individual descriptions of the different collections and fonds.

Archiving procedures:

The first archiving procedures were issued in 1949: Despatch of correspondence (Office Circular n°1) and Registration of papers (Circular n° 2).

In 1951, a new procedure was adopted; the Universal Decimal Classification was introduced for archiving, a practice also employed by UNESCO:

- Registration of Correspondence (Office Circular no. 71)
- Organisation of the Registry
(Office Circular no. 72).

The system for registering mail was revised in 1962: Revised instructions of the Mail Office and Archives. In 1974, an in-house classification system by subject was introduced: Amendments to the current correspondence and archives system (Office Circular no. 530). This system was abolished again in 1979; henceforth all deposits are classified by provenance.

In 2001, the responsibility of the Archives was defined, and the notion of disposal schedules and archive correspondents was introduced (see RAP-INF(2001)6).

In May 2009, the Secretary General adopted a new Archival policy for the Organisation, introducing the management of information throughout its life cycle and the notion of records.

Date of description:

Compiled on 22/05/2009, updated on 02/10/2009.