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European Union: Legislation

The EU Legal System

There are many guides to EU Law on the Internet.  Current EU legislation can be found via EurLex (for treaties, secondary legislation, and more).  Parliamentary information including debates, reports, and hearings is on the European Parliament site. Case law can be found via Curia.  More detailed information is listed below.

Secondary Legislation (Official Journal)

EurLex.  Primary database for EU legislation: use this first for EU Primary, Secondary. and Prepatory Legislation.  Searching is not easy: try the advanced search and limit to the body in question if known.  Many features are available including.

  • Preparatory Documents - Documents used to prepare EU legislation.
  • Consolidated Texts - Integration of a legal act with its successive amendments and corrections.
  • N-Lex - National Legislation for EU Member states in English. 
  • Jure - National Case Law for EU Member states in English.

Legislative Observatory (OEIL). Database for monitoring the EU decision-making process.

The Official Journal (OJ) is the official gazette of the European Communities. It contains the texts of secondary legislation, draft legislation and official announcements from Community institutions.  It is published in two sections: Legislation (L series) and Information and Notices (C series). 

Legislation (L Series)

This series contains the texts of all secondary legislation.

  • Regulations often concern trade and are also used to implement conventions. They apply directly to member states.
  • Directives are not directly applicable in national law but are implemented by statutes and statutory instruments.
  • Decisions typically apply to specific organizations.

Information and Notices (C Series)

Each issue is divided into three sections:

  • Information about current activities of the institutions, which includes questions and answers in the European Parliament and actions before the Court of Justice.
  • Preparatory Acts with draft legislation and opinions. Since 2001 draft legislation is only published as COM documents.
  • Notices carries announcements of staff recruitment.

Supplement to the Official Journal

The Supplement contains details of contracts for tender in the European Community. It is available on the TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) web site.

Working documents of the Commission (COM Documents) 

​These documents contain:

  • Draft legislation (this also appeared in the C series of the Official Journal until 2001, but without the explanations)
  • Policy documents, including Green and White papers.
  • Reports on the implementation of policy

References are abbreviated "COM" followed by year and number. Since 2003 they have been published on Eur-Lex as Preparatory documents.

Primary Legislation (Treaties)

Treaties are the European Union’s primary legislation, comparable to constitutional law in many countries.  They establish the fundamental features of the Union, in particular the responsibilities of decision-making bodies and legislative procedures. Treaties are negotiated between representatives of member states but must be be ratified, either by national parliaments or via citizen referendum.

  • Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (1951) (E.C.S.C. Treaty), 261 U.N.T.S. 140.
  • Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (1957) (Euratom Treaty), 298 U.N.T.S. 167.
  • Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (1957) (Treaty of Rome or the E.E.C. Treaty), 298 U.N.T.S. 11.
  • Treaty Establishing a Single Council and a Single Commission of the European Communities (1965) (the Merger Treaty), 1965 J.O. (152) 1
  • Single European Act (1986), 1987 O.J. (L 169) 1.
  • Treaty on European Union (1992) (consolidated version), 2012 O.J. C326/13.
  • Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), 1997 O.J. C340/1.
  • Treaty of Nice (2001), 2001 O.J. (C 80) 1.
  • Treaty of Lisbon (2007), 2007 O.J. (C306) 1.
  • Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2007) (consolidated version), 2012 O.J. C326/47.

European Parliament

European Parliament. Members of parliament are directly elected by EU citizens. Together with the Council, it comprises the legislative branch of the EU.  Members of the European Parliament sit in political groups irrespective of nationality.

  • Debates and Video - Verbatim report of proceedings of each sitting.
  • Reports - Adopted by parliamentary committees on a proposal from a rapporteur appointed by committee.
  • Motions for Resolution - Selected statements and questions to the Council and Commission are followed by a vote on a motion for a resolution. Debates on breaches of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law may also. 
  • Texts Adopted - Motions or resolutions and reports tabled by Members and by the parliamentary committees are voted on in plenary, with or without a debate and the final texts are published.
  • Parliamentary Questions - Questions addressed by Members of the European Parliament to other European Union Institutions and bodiess.
  • Written Declarations - Brief texts made bt MEPs relating on a matter falling within the competence of the EU. They are not legally binding. 
  • Public Hearings and highlights.

Archives. Archives of Parliamentary documents for previous terms.

Historical Bulletins of the European Parliament.