~ how to find - and link to - any EU-document ~
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Version December 2003

Zapping a huge database  (smartapi magic)
by il-li

(heavily modified and edited by fravia+)

Go to il-li's essay at once                 Introduction (and OJ-masks)


Very interesting stuff, especially the short description of the various institutions of the European Union, hehe (note that we already had the "Melchom" searching lab on Coreper stalking matters and other European Union Legislation related queries). I am sure that our non-european friends will appreciate these searching masks (and codes) as well. Note that there's a special and very useful form, at the bottom of this essay, that will allows readers to launch researches on the Europa servers. Try a search for -say- "software copyright"...

Also it could be useful, for all civil society and "grass root" organisations, to check ANY EU-Official Journal, in ANY (EU) language 'on the fly'. Use the following (powerful) mask:

Fetch a OJ on the fly!  ("l" or "c")
(Build a string like 1999l138 or 2001c011)
 ? 
   string → 
(Leading zeroes MUST be manually added, build long string, kinda 1999l138, as per above)

Also it could be useful, for all civil society and "grass root" organisations, to check ANY COM (European Commission) document, in ANY (EU) language 'on the fly'. Use the following (powerful) mask:

Celex COM docs TITLES on the fly
e.g.: doc COM(2002)23 def.
doc COM(2000)141 def.
 ?       n° →                 
(Leading zeroes will be automatically added)
"No documents matching"? Reduce number and/or use "other docs"!


See? The power to search and retrieve anything!

I hope I'll find the time to build similar masks for all sort of Legislation available in the USA, Japan, China and Russia (to start with :-)


"smartapi" Magic
(how to find - and link to - any EU-document)
by il-li


The digression

A small digression about the complicated structure of the European union may be useful. There is a whole constellation of institutions and bodies that have the purposes summarized below. As suggested by fravia in his evaluation advices, when evaluating bureocracies, I give priority to their specific recruitment procedures:

Commission: prepares law and initiatives, does the work, does not decide, starts all sort of good (and bad) legislative snowballs. Heavily lobbied. Lobbysts here are often camouflaged as NGOs.
Has -mostly- good competent officials, recruited on the base of merit, but is swamped by incompetent, "commissioners' cabinets imposed", dentists, political lackeys and clowns. Biggest institution of them all, has a plethora of general directorates, some of them useful, sone of them pleonastic. One of its problems is that it accomodates every few years a huge number of "Commissars", from the various member states. Each one of them tends to bring along, in his own cabinet, all sort of more or less competent followers and protegées (some times even personal dentists), that will later all find their "way" into the high levels of the Commission machinery.

European Parliament: some co-decision powers with the Council, some good competent officials, recruited on the base of merit, but swamped by mostly incompetent, "political groups' imposed", lackeys and clowns. Heavily lobbied. Has budget competences, but lacks any moral authority in budget matters, since it wastes huge amounts of money travelling between Luxembourg and Brussel and even - ludicrously - Strasbourg. Lacks political clout, since less than half of the European citiziens care to vote for it every 5 years. Moreover most MEPs, having been elected through the 'fashion' TV-logic typical of our west-european oligarchies, are utterly incompetent.

Council: All the power is here, hidden in two small groups called COREPER I and II, where 15 'grey shadow men', extremely public shy, decide everything, and then some. These "coreper" representatives, non elected, appointed by god knows who, with mysterious and unchecked financial allocations, would make interesting stuff for conspirations theories and are probably the most powerful men of the Continent. All acts adopted by the Council are choosen and prepared by "working parties" under the direction of COREPER. Thus, COREPER is nothing else than the "secret spider" in the decision-making web.
The Council has indeed some good competent officials, recruited on the base of merit, but has been swamped by mostly incompetent, "national member States' imposed", lackeys and clowns. Very un-transparent and un-democratic Institution.

European Economic and Social Committee: Small institution, supposed to represent trade unions and civil society in the European constellation, purposedly kept inept and disregarded by the other institutions, since social purposes have never been and never will be a EU-priority.
This "social fig leaf" of Europe has officials mostly recruited on the base of merit, but the EESC has been denied any weight whatsoever in the European constellation.

Committee of the Regions: Most recent institution, small, stronghold of the European regional and sub-national power groups. Would be "concurrent" of the European Parliament as 'second chamber of the local powers'. (In)famous for not recruiting staff on the base of merit, but only through "internal competitions" subject to all sorts of political and regional pressures. Its documents mostly reflects the feudal derive of modern Europe.

Court of Auditors: Small institution, checks unsignificant tiny waste-related "field cases" and at the same time ignores any episode of big, large-scale EU-waste. Officials mostly recruited on the base of merit here.

Court of Justice: Small institution, checks unsignificant, tiny mismanagement cases and ignores huge bogus flawed laws or political-related frauds. Heavily lobbied. Officials mostly recruited on the base of merit here.

It should also be noted that a complex interinstitutional procedure, called co-decision, following which a legislative act started from the Commission bounces forth and back between Commission, Parliament and Council, allows many repeated "meddling windows" for all sort of lobbyng attempts by the economical powers that be.

All the institutions listed above, and many other european "agencies" produce a huge amount of documents and legislation, in 11 languages, that you will be able to access at leisure after having read this. Grass root organisations, civil society buffs and fellow linguists will appreciate the possibility to quickly link, find, read, search and use ALL the European Union documentation in 11 languages (and soon in 20 languages) for free.

Finally, from a reversing point of view, being able to find the PREPARATORY DRAFT version of a specific legislative act and its FINAL ADOPTED VERSION at the same time will allow you to see on your screen where and why some specific lobbyes have modified it, at times even completely altering its original purpose.
If this is not instructive (and useful) for grass root organisations (together with some stalking and luring lore), I do not know what else could be (fravia+ :-)

In this very context it is moreover worth remembering, that many EU-documents are -silly enough- produced in doc format which means that often times you'll be able to see with an hexeditor THE SPECIFIC CHANGES that have been made in the various versions. As you know there is a "junk insertion feature" in Word documents, called fast recording. When this feature is enabled (and it comes enabled by default, hehe :-), when you ask it to save the document, instead of saving the whole document it only saves the changes made in the document. If you save the document many times, you will have internally a document that is not your text as it appears on the screen, but the original texts and its many fragments indicating what has been changed in the text between each time you asked it to save it. So the document starts having, in a hidden way --- that we can check with any hexeditor --- all parts of text that have been previously erased! Thus fishing word documents out of the web is often times fun and instructive!



The beef

In order to access Eu documentation, you usually would use the CELEX portal

There is some 'magic' behind the celex structure: the "smartapi" linking, explained here, has the advantage of allowing a 'stable' link structure towards ALL documents of the European union (whereas the URLs found trough the various server portals may change anytime).

One of the main problems, when accessing documentation on the web, is that links are unstable. The server names change, and so do the subdirectories and the very structures used for the pages you referred to. What is there to-day wont be there no more (but elsewhere) tomorrow. That is the reason we still use footnotes (instead of direct links) in all scientific publications.

Yet you can use the ancient, powerful, mistral query-language commands and parameters to retrieve EVERY document of the European Union, anywhere. You may want to learn how to do it per extenso here, or you may want to study the complete list of the possible parameters here, but it is quite simple, let's make an example:

Let's take a CoR (Committee of the Regions) document, for instance 234/1995:
http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=en&numdoc=51995IR0234&format=pdf
The above link will open in a new window, so that you can have its address before your eyes in the "Address" window of your browser (if you don't have an 'address' window your browser is not correctly configured, go to View ~ Toolbars ~ Links ~ and check the last "links" option).
Now watch the FINAL part of the address:
numdoc&lg=en&numdoc=51995IR0234&format=pdf
----------^^--------^^^^^^^^^^^-----------
"en" is of course the language (just change it per hand to "de", press ENTER and you'll have automagically the German version on your screen) and the "51995IR0234" code is the Mistral old code for a COR opinion, where 5= Celex sector, 1995= 1995, IR= CoR Opinion initiative ("AR" = consultation... all codes are listed here ), 0234 = n.234 (don't forget the leading zeroes! Must have 4 numbers).

Old database aficionados will remember Mistral codes; if not N.B. that, for instance, the Commission proposals are coded PC and, for instance the ESC Opinions are coded "AC" and therefore have a code form like 51998AC0451, where 5= Celex sector, 1998= 1998, AC= Avis Comité, 0451 = 451. You dig it?

Guess this code: 11957E086, got it? Very good! that was Article 86 of the Treaty of Rome, last number is only three digits because this is a treaty article, long URL form would have been
http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=en&numdoc=11957E086&format=pdf
and if you want the same doc in, say, dutch, you just smash "nl" inside it:
http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=nl&numdoc=11957E086&format=pdf
Try copy and pasting the above long url inside the Address field of your browser...

Guess this code: 52002AE0522, got it? Very good! that was EESC opinion 522/2002, long URL form would have been
http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=en&numdoc=52002AE0522&format=pdf
and if you want the same doc in, say, spanish, you just smash "es" inside it:
http://europa.eu.int/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=es&numdoc=52002AE0522&format=pdf
Try copy and pasting the above long url inside the Address field of your browser...

quite easy, uh?

Now you know how to find (and to link to) any EU document, in all their linguistic versions.
Lingustic codes: en, fr, it, de, nl, es, pt, fi, sv, el, da (pretty obvious, duh)

And if you want an overview of Celex's (actually: Mistral's) codes... here they are.


How to search docs in the Europa servers

Use the following form, but read the First aid, and then Re-read it.

SEARCH DOCUMENTS on the Europa server
Formulate your query:
  How to formulate your query?
Number of documents to display:
Retrieve only documents updated after: (date can be left blank)

(dd/mm/yyyy)
Document types: Only HTML
Multiple (HTML, PDF, Word, ...)
   













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