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In the early 1990s, when Europe ceased to be divided in opposing political blocs, the Council of Europe concluded that access to archives was one of the key issues to be addressed in order to fortify democracy throughout the continent. Intensive, in-depth preparation led to the drafting of Recommendation No. R (2000) 13 on a European Policy on Access to Archives, the first intergovernmental standard in this field. The recommendation is motivated by the ethical conviction that knowledge of the past constitutes a human right and that in a democracy citizens are entitled to access to an unbiased presentation of their history based on authentic sources preserved in archives. This handbook explains the principles that should govern access policy and practice in the 21st century, summarises the main findings of a pan-European survey on the situation regarding access to archives and formulates a set of guidelines for the implementation of the recommendation intended for civil servants and decision makers, archival authorities and archivists, the scholarly community and civil organizations.