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European Union Research Guide

This guide provides information on the European Union and how to navigate among EU documents.

Secondary Legislation - All the Other Stuff

We refer to the legal system that exists between the member states within the European Union as Community Law. This differentiates it from international law generally. For a quick overview of Community Law, see Community Law on Europa. The major source of Community legislation is secondary legislation, of which there are four categories: regulations; directives; decisions; opinions and recommendations 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. 
  • 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.

Sources of EU Law

EU Regulations

EU Directives

EU Decisions

EU Opinions

International & Foreign Reference

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International Reference Desk:
Wolff International & Comparative Law Library, Lower Level
(202) 662-4195

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