European Union Law

Introduction

The European Union (EU) is a supranational organization currently composed of 15 European countries who have decided to cooperate on a number of issues (economic, monetary, security, etc.) and adopt uniform laws. In 2004, the EU will expand to include 10 more countries. This organization has a long history and its name has changed several times.  Read the brief history of the European Union and the chronology of events.

For more information, see Encyclopedia of the European Union (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000) [Reference Desk KJE926 .E53 2000] and Introduction to the Legal System of the European Union (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. : Oceana Publications, 2001) [KJE947 .R39 2001].

Be aware of eurojargon. Sometimes you may need to consult a glossary for help with definitions of unfamiliar terminology. See also Eurojargon: A Dictionary of European Union Acronyms, Abbreviations and Sobriquets (6th ed., Bruton, Somerset: CPI ; Chicago, Ill.: F. Dearborn, 2000) [Reference Desk KJ117.6 .R35 1994 Folio].

Where to Start

As with researching any international topic, you may want to start with a research guide.

Introduction to International Organizations (Louis-Jacques and Korman eds., New York: Oceana, 1996) [Loan Desk KJ41 .I62 1996].

Reynolds & Flores, Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Legislation (Littleton, CO: Rothman, 1989-). See volume II, tab on "European Communities." [Reference Desk K20.A1 R49].   See also Foreign Law Guide on the web (UCB only).

C. Germain, Germain's Transnational Law Research (Ardsely-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Transnational Juris Publications, 1991-) [Loan Desk K29 .G47].

Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research, chapter 7 (Littleton, Colo. : F.B. Rothman, 1997) [Reference Desk K85 .A27 1997].

Hajnal, International Information, chapter 3 (2nd ed.,  Englewood, Colo. : Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1997) [Reference Desk KZ4850 .I58 1997].

S. Chase, Navigating the Sea of EU Information, 8 European Information 6 (Oct. 1999).

There are many useful web guides that point to print and electronic resources.

EU Institutions

A good place to look for information on EU institutions is at The Union's Institutions - Who does what.

The Commission has both executive and administrative roles. The Commission is organized into departments, called Directorate Generals, responsible for drafting legislation and overseeing its implementation. In its executive capacity, the Commission acts as the "government" in a Parliamentary system by initiating legislation and submitting proposals to the Council of the European Union. The Commission also oversees Member States' implementation of directives, and enforces regulations.

Documents For Commission proposals transmitted to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, see COM documents for explanatory memorandum and proposed legislative text; and see C series (OJ) for proposed legislative text only. Also produces Green and White Papers and SEC documents. Green papers are discussion papers published by the Commission on a specific policy area. White papers are documents containing proposals for Community action in a specific area. SEC documents are internal documents associated with the decision making process and the general operation of Commission departments.

The Council of the European Union represents the Member States, acts on Commission proposals, and has the final legislative authority. The Council may request that certain legislation be proposed and may conduct any necessary studies to help achieve the goals of foundational treaties. The Council also has treaty-making power.

Documents Issues working papers on legislation, minutes and other documents. See the Public Register for more information on publicly available documents and the "transparency" section of the Council's web site.

The European Parliament is composed of Representatives directly elected by the populations of the Member States. In most cases the Council is required to submit proposed legislation to the European Parliament for comment. The Parliament acts as a forum for debate and questioning of the Council and Commission. The appropriate committee of the Parliament scrutinizes the proposed legislation and a rapporteur is selected to draft a report and opinion for consideration at the plenary meeting. The Parliament adopts legislation "in codecision" with the Commission.

Documents For first or second reading of Commission proposals, see Reports, which generally consists of three parts: 1) record of Committee's action, 2) explanatory memorandum providing background on issue and reason's for Committee's recommendation, and 3) text of the draft opinion. Minutes of plenary session considering rapporteur's report are printed in the C series (OJ). Debates of the plenary sessions of Parliament are in the Annex of the (OJ). Other documents are available under "activities" on the Parliament's web site.

The Economic and Social Committee is an advisory body representing industry, labor and consumers, is composed of members appointed by the Member States. During the legislative process, the Council of Ministers may be required to or may decide to seek the opinion of the Committee.

Documents For texts from the Economic and Social Committee, see C series (OJ), and Opinions and Reports, Economic and Social Committee. See the "documents" section of the Committee's web site.

The European Court of Justice is the highest legal authority in the EC. The Court is empowered to decide cases involving interpretation and application of the Treaties. EU institutions and Member States may appeal and take each other to court for failure to implement or properly apply the Treaties and derived legislation, i.e., the Commission will file a case against a Member State for not implementing a directive. Legal or natural persons may appeal to the Court against a decision addressed to him or any regulation or decision which is of direct concern. The Court will also issue prejudicial decisions in cases referred to it by national courts when questions of Community law are involved. The Court is assisted by advocate-generals, who present a reasoned and independent opinion of the issue of law in the case. While there is no formal stare decisis, the Court tends to follow its own decisions. The decisions are binding on the national courts of Member States. In 1989, the Court of First Instance began functioning, hearing disputes between community civil servants and their institutions, actions in the field of competition law, actions under anti-dumping law and actions under the ECSC Treaty. There is also a European Court of Auditors that is responsible for checking on the management of the EU budget.

Documents Text of opinions for both courts are officially available in the European Court Reports series (ECR), the Court's web site, and unofficially from other publishers.

There are many other bodies and agencies that handle other functions within the EU, see Institutions of the European Union.

Background Information

To locate more sources, conduct a subject search LAWCAT using the subjects: law -- European economic communities ; law -- European union countries; or European union.

Dinan, Encyclopedia of the European Union (Updated ed., Boulder : Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000) [Reference Desk KJE926 .E53 2000]

Craig, EU Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) [KJE947 .C73 2003].

Encyclopedia of European Union Law (London : Sweet & Maxwell, 1996-) [KJE4442.3 .E52 1996].

European Union Law: Documents (München: C.H. Beck; The Hague; Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1999) [Reference Desk KJE916 .E966 1999].

The Evolution of EU Law (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) [KJE947 .E99 1999].

Folsom, European Union Law in a Nutshell (3rd. ed., St. Paul, Minn.: West Pub. Co., 1999) [Loan Desk KJE949 .F55 1999]. New edition in process.

Hartley, The Foundations of European Community Law: An Introduction to the Constitutional and Administrative Law of the European Community (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) [Reference Desk KJE947 .H37 1998].

Kapteyn, Introduction to the Law of the European Communities: from Maastricht to Amsterdam (3rd ed., London; Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1998) [KJE947 .K36313 1998].

Lasok, Law and Institutions of the European Union (7th ed., London: Butterworths, 2001) [KJE947 .L37 2001].

Lenaerts, Constitutional Law of the European Union (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1999) [KJE4445 .L46 1999].

Mathijsen, A Guide to European Union Law (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1999) [KJE947 .M38 1999].

Mengozzi, European Community Law: From the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Amsterdam (The Hague; Boston: Kluwer Law International, 1999) [KJE947 .M465 1999]. Rudden and Wyatt's EU Treaties and Legislation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) [Reference Desk KJE916 .B37 2002]. A companion web site is available.

Tridimas, The General Principles of EC Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) [KJE947 .T75 1999].

Wyatt, Wyatt and Dashwood's European Community Law (4th ed., London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2000) [KJE947 .W96 2000].

Legislation

For a quick overview of Community law, see About EU Law.

There are different types of Community legal instruments. Primary legislation includes the founding (or constitutive) treaties (from the ESCS Treaty of 1957 to the Treaty of Nice). A second source of primary law consists of the treaties between Member States and treaties between the EU and third parties. The major source of Community legislation is secondary legislation: regulations, directives, decisions, and opinions of the Court of Justice.

  • Regulations are Community laws adopted by the Council of the European Union upon a proposal from the Commission. Regulations have general effect and are directly applicable in all of the Member States. Regulations do not require national implementing legislation.
  • Directives are Community laws adopted by the Council of the European Union upon a proposal from the Commission. Directives are addressed to the Member States and are binding as to the result - Member States may choose the form and methods of implementation.  The process of implementation is called harmonization.
  • Decisions are Community laws, issued by the Council or Commission, which are binding on those addressed, whether governments, companies or individuals.
  • Opinions are written statements by the Council or Commission and have no binding force. Opinions are an important indication of Council or Commission policy.
  • Recommendations adopted by the Commission are like directives in that they are binding only on the Member States cited and only with respect to the end result.

Treaties

Relevant subject headings include: European union; European economic community; European coal and steelcommunity; or euratom.

Founding Treaties

Treaties Establishing the European Communities, Treaties Amending these Treaties, Documents Concerning Accession ([Luxembourg]: Office for Official Publications of the European ommunities, 1978) [KJ118.C6 T741 1978].

Official Journal (see section VI.A. for more information on the OJ). Encyclopedia of European Union Law. Constitutional Texts (formerly Encyclopedia of European Community Law) (London : Sweet & Maxwell, 1996-) [KJE4442.3 .E52 1996].

European Union Law Reporter: Constitutional Texts (formerly Common Market Law Reporter) (Bicester, Oxfordshire : CCH Editions Ltd., 1996-) [KJ117 .C62].Lexis (EURCOM library; TREATY file) or if using the web version select the "Legal (excluding the US)" irectory and select "European Union."

Westlaw (EU - Treaties) or if using the web version, select "International/ Worldwide Materials" and then select "European Union."

Web Sources:

Treaties between the EU and Third Parties as well as Treaties Concluded between EU Member States

Relevant subject heading include: European economic community countries--foreign relations--treaties; European economic community countries--commercial treaties; European economic community countries--foreign economic relations.

Encyclopedia of European Union Law: Constitutional Texts (London : Sweet & Maxwell, 1996-) [KJE4442.3 .E52 1996].

See the Official Journal (next).

See the sources listed above.

Legislative Documents

The Official Journal (OJ), the official gazette of the Community, is published daily.

The OJ is divided into the following series and parts. The L Series contains adopted treaties and legislation, including directives and regulations, adopted by the Commission and Council, and other finding acts. The C Series is the "Information and Notices" section of the OJ containing non-binding decisions and resolutions of the institutions, texts of proposed legislation, minutes of the Parliament, Commission and Council replies to written questions, opinions of the Economic and Social Committee, and notices of Court decisions.

Law: L & C Series (1974-). L Series [KJ116.11], C Series [KJ116.11]. Prior to 1972, the OJ was not published in English. When the UK joined, all legislation in force was translated and published into English in a special edition of the OJ (1952-1972). The OJ is also available on Lexis and Westlaw.   The OJ is also available on the EUR-Lex web site. The coverage of the OJ on EUR-LEX is from 1998 to present, but the coverage is expanding so check this site often. See chronological list for coverage details. Document format may vary.

Citations - What do the numbers mean?

Official Journal: 1993 OJ L 95/29 1993 = Year 
L95 = Issue in L Series 
29 = page # in Issue L95
Regulations: (EC) 2913/92 EC = Community initials 
2913 = number of regulation numbered consecutively 
92 = year
Other legal acts: 93/13 (EC)  93 = year 
13 = number of decision or directive 
EC = Community initials

You must know what type of legal act you have since directives, commission decisions and recommendations can have the same citation. For example, 93/13 (EC) could be a directive or a decision.

Indexes/Directories to Official Journal

Index to the Official Journal of the European Community (Luxembourg: European Communities, 1979-) [KJ116.11].
Vol. 1: Alphabetical Index. Issued monthly & cumulated annually; covers EC legislation and lists filed cases and final judgments of the European Court of Justice. Particularly useful with year and subject.
Vol. 2: Methodological Table. Issued monthly & cumulated annually; arranged by document number with regulations listed first, followed by directives and decisions.

Directory of Community Legislation in Force and other acts of the Community Institutions (Luxembourg: Office of Official Publications of the European Communities, 1984-) [KJ117.5 .R45].
Produced in June and December, each publication is a cumulation including all binding secondary EC legislation in force from 1952 to the present. Volume I consists of 20 topical chapters with legislation arranged by subject. Volume II is a chronological and alphabetical index of legislation found in Vol. I. Provides quick access to complete history of legislative acts. Also available on the EUR-Lex web site in both an analytical and alphabetical index.

Bulletin of the European Union (formerly Bulletin of the European Communities) (Brussels: European Commission, Secretariat-General, 1994-) [KJ116.12 B82]. Issued 10 times a year. It reports on the activities of the Commission and the other Community institutions.  Contains a subject index and references to the OJ and other relevant documents. Available on the web from 1996 to present.

Legislation in Force - Consolidated Texts. Contains the integrated version of Community legislation, with announcements and corrections.

Encyclopedia of European Community Law: C, Secondary Legislation (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1973-) [KJ116.17 .E53]

European Current Law: Monthly Digest (Andover, England: Sweet & Maxwell, 1992-) [KJ117 .E451]. Subject indexes to regulations and directives. Cummulated annually and published as European Current Law Yearbook.

Other Legislative Documents

References to many of these documents can be found in the OJ C series, The Bulletin of the European Union, and other sources.

Debates of the European Parliament (part of the OJ) (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Community) [KJ116.16].

European Parliament, Working Documents (under the title Reports) (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Community) [291jnp.E894.si].

EUROPARL Homepage.

Commission of the European Communities, Documents (Brussels: The Committee) [available in the Main Library, Govt/Soc Sci Microfiche]. Also known as COM documents. Proposals and amendments issued by Commission, including explanatory memorandum. Numbered sequentially each year and referred by number and date.  Citation format: COM (90) 322 final. Some COM documents are called "Green papers" or "White Papers." Green Papers are "intended to stimulate debate and launch a process of consultation" and may lead to a White Paper. A White Paper contains "proposals for action in a specific area" and can often lead to a program of action. For more information about these documents, see the Glossary.

See also Official Documents of the Commission. A COM Documents search engine is available on the web.

Economic and Social Committee, Opinions and Reports (Brussels: The Committee) [available at the Main Library, Govt/Soc Sci Microfiche].

Celex - Official Journal in Electronic Format

The C and L Series of the OJ are included in CELEX, the official database for documentation of European Community law. CELEX is available on Lexis in the EURCOM library or on the web version under Legal (excluding US); European Union.

CELEX includes legislation, preparatory documents, case law, parliamentary questions and citations to national provisions which implement EC directives. Full text is generally available for the L Series, but the C Series has only title access to documents.

CELEX is available on the web (by subscription).  The Law Library does not subscribe to this service, use Lexis or Westlaw.

Directives

These strategies can also be used to find regulations, decisions and other legal acts.

Adopted Directives

Directive with OJ citation:

Directive with directive number only, check:

  • Methodological Table for the year, and it will cross-reference OJ cite.
  • "Finding Lists" in volume 4 of European Law Reporter.
  • European Communities Legislation: Current Status to locate the OJ cite.
  • EUR-Lex, Lexis or Westlaw.

Directive without any citation, but with topic, check:

  • Directory of Community Legislation In Force.
  • Alphabetical index of the Index to the Official Journal.
  • "Topical Index" in European Law Reporter.
  • Encyclopedia of European Community Law (Part C "Secondary Legislation" multi-volume set arranged by topics. Under topics, secondary legislation arranged and reprinted chronologically).
  • European Current Law: Monthly Digest(Andover, England: Sweet & Maxwell, 1992-) [KJ117 .E451]. Subject indexes to regulations and directives. Annual cummulation published as European Current Law Yearbook.
  • Lexis or Westlaw.
Lexis or Westlaw Sample Query:
If your cite is 1993 OJ L95/29: Lexsee 1993 ojl 95 (Lexis)
If your directive is 93/13 (EC): directive w/5 93/13 (Lexis & Westlaw)
If you have only a topic: use keyword search

For information about directives, use Lexis (see News, By Country and Region, EU). For access to European Information Service, see ECNEWS file (Group file of EC news sources including Agence Europe); and RAPID file (EC Press Releases).

Westlaw (EU-LEG). Covers 1952- present. Use similar strategies as Lexis.

The Bulletin of the European Unionis another good source for information about directives.

See also some web sites for news and press releases:

  • RAPID is a database of press releases and speeches .
  • EU News provides the latest press releases and links to press service of other EU institutions.

Proposed Directives

Proposals for directives are either identified by topic, or if amending an existing directive, by that directive number.

Print

Bulletin of the European Union. Available on the web from 1996 to present.

"Finding Lists" in Volume 4 of European Union Law Reporter.

"Topic Index" to European Union Update.

Electronic sources

Try keyword search by topic, or if a directive is being amended, by the directive's number.

Legislation in Preparation

Pre-lex follows the major stages of the decision-making process between the Commission and the other institutions. PreLex follows all Commission proposals (legislative and budgetary dossiers, conclusions of international agreements) and communications from their transmission to the Council or the European Parliament.

The Legislative Observatory traces the decision-making process from the Parliament . Search legislative dossiers or browse subjects of current interest

Lexis. See the EURCOM Library; PREP File (Preparatory documents) or SPICER file (Spicers Centre Information covers official documentation originating from EC Commission & other press sources) or ECCNEWS file (Group file of EC news sources including Agence Europe) or RAPID file (EC Press Releases).

Westlaw also has a Preparatory Acts (EU-ACTS) file.

RAPID. Daily view of the activities of the European Union as presented by the Institutions in their press releases.

EU News.

Implementing Legislation

Directives must be implemented by national legislation in Member States. A good way to locate these laws is by researching the jurisdiction in question, see Researching Foreign and Comparative Law.

European Current Law: Monthly Digest (Andover, England: Sweet & Maxwell, 1992-) [KJ117 .E451]. Subject indexes to regulations and directives. Annual cummulation published as European Current Law Yearbook.

Halsbury's Statutory Instruments: EC Legislation Implementator (London: Butterworths; St. Paul, Minn.: Butterworth Legal Publishers, 1986-) [KD173 H3]. Issued annually.

Lexis (see Legal > Legal (excluding U.S.) > European Union > Legislation & Regulations > CELEX EU Law Database: National Provisions Implementing Directives ). Provides references to national legislation.

Westlaw lists the "national measures" by Member States at the end of the document, usually in the language of the country (see International/Worldwide Materials > European Union).

Case Law

How to Find Citations with Names of Parties or by Topic

European Union Law Reporter (formerly Common Market Reporter) (London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1997-). Selected cases 1961 - current, cases by name under "Finding Lists" tab [on order].

European Community Cases (Bicester, Oxfordshire: CCH Editions Limited, 1989-). Selected cases from 1989 - current. Under "Index" tab, cases by name and case number. [KJ117 .C626].

European Current Law: Monthly Digest (Andover, England: Sweet and Maxwell, 1992-) [KJ117 .E451]. Contains selective summaries of national and ECJ cases.

Digest of Case Law Relating to the European Community (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities) [KJ116.15 .D56].

The Digest: Annotated British, Commonwealth and European Cases: Quarterly Survey (London: Butterworth, 1995-) [KD296 .E5].

Offical Journal, C series publishes a portion of the judgments, so it can be used as a finding tool.

Lexis (see Legal > Legal (excluding US) > European Union > Case Law). English version of ECJ cases from 1954. Use name of parties as search terms.

Westlaw (see International/Worldwide Materials > European Union > Cases). English version of ECJ cases from 1954 and Court of First Instance from 1989. Some commercial reporters are available as well (Common Market Law Reports, European Commercial Cases, for example). Westlaw also has a European Union Case Law Locator (EU-CASELOC) file. It contains abstracts of significant European Union cases. The abstracts contain history information and reported citations. There are also many commercial reporters available.

The Court's web site provides Research Tools to help users locate cases. Digest, indexing, and annotations for cases are available, some only in French.

Full-Text Opinions

Reports of Cases Before the Court (ECR) (Luxembourg: Court of Justice of the European Communities). Also called European Court Reports. Official case reporter, English edition. Delays of two to three years are common. Court of First Instance decisions from 1990 to current [KJ116.15 .R41].

European Community Cases (CEC) (Bicester, Oxfordshire: CCH Editions Limited, 1989-). Selected Court of Justice decisions, Court of First Instance and Commission decisions from 1989. See "Topical Index" in current volume for citation of opinion [KJ117 .C626].

European Union Law Reporter (formerly Common Market Reporter) (London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1997-) [KJ117 .C62]. Contains cases for European Court of Justice and national courts.

Lexis (see Legal > Legal (excluding US) > European Union > Case Law). English version of ECJ cases from 1954.

Westlaw (see International/Worldwide Materials > European Union > Cases). English version of ECJ cases from 1954 and Court of First Instance from 1989. Some commercial reporters are available as well (Common Market Law Reports, European Commercial Cases, for example).

Common  Market Law Reports (CMLR) ([Edinburgh] T. Nelson & Sons, 1962 -). Selective cases published in each issue [KJ117 .C65].

Court of Justice of the European Communities. Search for recent case law via Numerical Access to the Case-Law.  

Periodicals

As with other international law topic, Journal literature is a good way to information, find a treaty citation, locate the text of a foreign law, the meaning of a term, figure out what an abbreviation stands for, etc.

  • See the Locating International & Foreign Law Journal Articles guide for this class for more information on researching journal articles.
  • In addition, there are Europe-specific sources for periodical literature, including:
    • Jean Monnet Table of Contents Service, European Integration Current Contents.
      This service provides access to the tables of contents of journals relevant in European Integration research - law, human rights, economics, history and political sciences. Currently it covers 109 journals published in nine languages and 14 countries.
    • European Research Papers Archive is a collection of working papers from many research institutions specializing in the area of European integration.

Citing to EU Documents

See rule 21.5.2 and Table 3 of The Bluebook for how to cite to decisions from the European Court of Justice. For guidance on how to cite to other EC/EU materials, see rule 21.8.2.

Another citation guide is available called Oxford Standard Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA). While this is geared to UK researchers, there is some useful citation information.

Current Awareness

Bulletin of the European Union (formerly Bulletin of the European Communities). Issued 10 times a year. It reports on the activities of the Commission and the other Community institutions.  Contains a subject index and references to the OJ and other relevant documents. [KJ116.12 B82]. Available on the web from 1996 to present.

Lexis.  See the Europe and News libraries.  See the Spicers file for information from EC institutions as well as quasi-official press sources.  On the web, select Legal (excluding US); European Union.

RAPID. Also available on Lexis in the EURCOM and EUROPE libraries. On the web, select Country & Region (excluding US); European Union. You will find many other news sources here as well.

EU News

Other Internet Sites

Prepared by Marci Hoffman, Foreign and International Law Librarian, UC Berkeley Law Library. Prepared March 2004.

Last edited by Michael Lindsey, 11 May 2009