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European Union Legal Information: How to find and use EU legal sources: EU legislation

What are the categories of EU legal materials? Where can you find EU legislation and case law? How can you check the status of EU legislation?

EU legislation

The Primary legislation of the EU consists of the Treaties which originally established the European Economic Community (EEC) and subsequently amended and altered its constitution. It is through the authority of the Treaties that secondary legislation is created.

Secondary legislation consists of Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and Recommendations and Opinions.

Where to find EU legislation

Citation of EU legislation

Secondary legislation may be cited by full title:

Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data

Commission Regulation (EC) No 90/2005 of 20 January 2005 determining the world market price for unginned cotton

Or in short form:

Directive 95/46/EC

Regulation (EC) 90/2005

Citation to legislation may include the Official Journal citation for example:

Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data [1995] OJ L281/31

(i.e. Official Journal 1995, “L” Series, issue 281, 23rd November 1995, page 31)


N.B. These are examples of citations you may see. For guidance on how to cite refer to a referencing guide:

Finding EU legislation on Westlaw

e.g. Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data

After selecting 'More' and 'European Union' from the Welcome page, select 'European Union Legislation'.

Under 'Document Fields' search for secondary legislation using words in the title by entering these in the 'Title' box.

Your search appears in the main search box. Beside the main search box, select the search (orange 'magnifying glass') button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

Tip: You can limit your search to specific legislation sources by selecting these (e.g. Directive, Regulation) in the 'Document Type' options.

e.g. Directive 95/46/EC

After selecting 'More' and 'European Union' from the Welcome page, select 'European Union Legislation'.

Under 'Document Fields' search for secondary legislation  using its short form (legislation number) by entering this in the 'Citation' box.

Your search appears in the main search box. Beside the main search box, select the search (orange 'magnifying glass') button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can limit your search to specific legislation sources by selecting these (e.g. Directive, Regulation) in the 'Document Type' options.

e.g. infringing fundamental freedoms or privacy; for purposes of journalism or for purposes of literary of artistic expression

After selecting 'More' and 'European Union' from the Welcome page, select 'European Union Legislation'.

You can search for EU secondary legislation using words occurring anywhere in the document's text by entering these under 'Find documents that have' in the appropriate box(es): 'All of these terms', 'Any of these terms', or 'This exact phrase'.

Your search appears in the main search box. Beside the main search box, select the search (orange 'magnifying glass') button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

Tip: You can limit your search to specific legislation sources by selecting these (e.g. Directive, Regulation) in the 'Document Type' options.

e.g. Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

After selecting 'More' and 'European Union' from the Welcome page, select 'European Union Treaties'.

You can search for EU treaties by using the 'Find documents that have', 'Citation', 'Title' or  'Subject' boxes.

Your search appears in the main search box. Beside the main search box, select the search (orange 'magnifying glass') button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

Checking the status of EU legislation on Westlaw

In force dates are indicated under the “Dates” heading and amendments are shown under the “Modified by” heading (below the legislation text).

Information about implementation by Member States is given under 'National Measures' (below the text of the legislation).

Finding EU legislation on Lexis Library

The International Legislation search screen provides various search boxes where you can enter terms:

  • 'Title'

e.g. Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (or 95/46/EC)

  • 'Search terms'

e.g. infringing fundamental freedoms or privacy; for purposes of journalism or for purposes of literary of artistic expression

You can specify sections of the document to search from the 'Advanced search' option.

To search for treaties select the 'EU treaties' option from the 'Sources' drop-down menu.

Checking the status of EU legislation on Lexis Library

EU legislation (from the source 'EU Legislation: Consolidated Versions') incorporates amendments with amending legislation listed.

 

Finding and checking EU legislation on EUR-Lex

Finding EU legislation

Use the “Simple Search” to search by document number or OJ reference, or by “search terms” (which may be limited to terms occurring in the title).

You can restrict a search to specific types of document (e.g. treaties, secondary legislation, regulations, directives, etc.).

The Directory of European Union Legislation may be browsed by subject heading.


Checking the status of secondary legislation

In force / amended?

The ‘about this document’ and ‘linked document’ sections in records give dates in force and amendments information.

Implementation in Member States

Under the “National Law” tab, search in “National implementing measures”.

Categories of EU secondary legislation

Regulations are of general application and become law within all Member States automatically. Member States do not have to pass any national legislation to apply the Regulations and they supersede any national law. Such Regulations are described as having “direct effect” within the Member States.

Directives, on the other hand, state objectives to be achieved by Member States and it is up to each individual state to enact or amend national legislation in order to comply. A Directive does not, therefore, have direct applicability. There is normally a time limit within which a Directive must be implemented. UK implementation is often by Statutory Instrument, but may be by statute. If a Directive is sufficiently clear and specific, and if the time limit for implementation has elapsed, then the Directive will have direct effect. This means that a citizen can rely on the Directive to challenge the failure of the UK Government to comply.

Decisions are issued by the European Commission. Decisions are binding upon the state to whom they are addressed and may also be issued to a public body, a private company or an individual.

Recommendations and Opinions have no binding force.

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