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Guide to European Union Materials in the Law Library: EU Legislation

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EU Legislation

1. Types of Legislation

a. Primary Legislation

Primary legislation in the EU consists of the treaties establishing the various communities and EU, plus revising and consolidating treaties,  documents of accession, and treaties with external entities.

Access the treaties at Lexis (TREATY) and Westlaw (EU-TREATIES) also include the treaties.

b. Secondary Legislation

Secondary legislation in the EU consists of Regulations, Directives, and Decisions, which are based on one or more Treaty articles. Regulations have general effect and are directly applicable in the Member States; Directives are addressed to the Member States and binding as to the result, but Member States may choose the form and methods for implementation into their national legal systems; Decisions are binding only on the addressee; and Recommendations and Opinions have no binding force.

Use EUR-Lex to access secondary legislation. Lexis (LEGIS) and Westlaw (EU-LEG) also include secondary legislation.

2. Legislative Documents

European Commission: COM Documents include proposals and amendments issued by the European Commission. Many of these are also published later in the Official Journal, "C" series at KJE 908 Ser. C (Basement) without the Explanatory Memorandum. Print COM Documents through the early 2000s are also shelved by document number at KJE 5380 A4 (Basement).

Economic and Social Committee (ESC or CES) and Committee of the Regions (CdR): opinions are in the Official Journal, "C" series at KJE 908 C Ser. (Basement). Print ESC opinions are also available in the Law Library as CES documents through the early 2000s, shelved by document  number at KJE 5514 .A15 E255 (Basement). Print Committee of the Regions documents are available in the Law Library through the early 2000s, shelved by document number at KJE 5520 A16 C67 (Basement).
Access COM, CES and CdR documents online via EUR-Lex Preparatory Acts.

The Directory of European Union Preparatory Acts is useful for identifying pending legislation by topic.


3. Official Publication

The authoritative source for primary and secondary legislation is the Official Journal of the European Communities "L" series at KJE 908 Ser. L (Basement). The EU ceased distribution of the print Official Journal in 2000; fortunately, EUR-Lex provides free access to the full text of the Official Journal  from 1998 to present.

The Official Journal "C" Series contains non-binding decisions and resolutions of the institutions, communications and notices of the Commission, proposals for legislation, Minutes of the Parliament, replies to written questions from Parliamentarians, opinions of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Court judgments, Commission contract tenders, and the daily European Currency Unit (ECU) rate. KJE908 Ser. C (Annex-3rd). From 1998 to present, the "C"series is available via EUR-Lex at

The Official Journal - Annex publishes verbatim reports of plenary sessions (debates) of the European Parliament. KJE908 (Annex-3rd).

The Official Journal "S" Seriespublishes notices of invitations to tender for contracts. The notices are available online via Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) at

The Official Journal is published daily in multiple languages.

4. No Official Codification!

Unlike the United States, where legislation and administrative law are codified into the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations, there is no official subject codification of EU legislation. However, the Directory of Community Legislation in Force (KJE920.5 .D57 Basement) classifies EU legislation into twenty topical chapters with divisions into further sub-sections. In addition, the European Commission is publishing a "provisional" collection of consolidated texts: Collection of Consolidated Texts (KJE921 .E93 - Basement). These collections integrate subsequent amending legislation into existing legislation. The Directory  of Consolidated Texts are available on EurLex at Summaries of EU legislation, arranged by policy area, are available at
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