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European Union Law: Institutions and Sources

This guide provides an overview of the structure and lawmaking activities of the EU Institutions as well as resources for EU research.

Types of EU Legislation

Regulations:  These laws are directly applicable and binding on Member States without the need for national implementing legislation.

Directives:  Member States are bound as to the objectives to be achieved within a certain time frame but are left to decide the method and form of implementation.  The passage of national legislation is necessary to implement a directive.

Decisions:  The binding effect of a decision is applicable only to the party to which the decision is directed.  This could be any or all Member States, a corporation or an individual.

Recommendations and Opinions:  These issuances are advisory only and have no binding effect.

Pre-Lex and OEIL

Managed by the Secretariat-General of the Commission, PreLex monitors legislation as it  goes through the legislative process involving the work of various groups and institutions.  It provides access to preparatory documents, reports, press releases, proposals and final legislation. 

 OEIL does about the same thing as PreLex but from the European Parliament’sperspective.  OEIL provides detailed “Procedure Files” on legislation that describe the content and purpose of the legislation. 

 The two services compliment each other; there is an advantage to examining both services.  Both services provide links to final and preparatory documents.  These services are similar to the bill tracking services you find on Westlaw and Lexis.

Its best to start with the Commission's Pre-Lex service.  Once you have generated a report in Pre-Lex, there is a link in the report that will generate the OEIL report without having to do a new search.  Under the STANDARD SEARCH, enter the preparatory document type (i.e COM or SEC), the document number and the date. 

Access Pre-Lex

Access OEIL

Preparatory Documents

Commission Proposals:  Often referred to as COM documents, these documents are the way in which the Commission proposes new legislation to the Council.  SEC (a contraction of ‘Secretary General’) is also a Commission working document.  Proposals usually contain the reasoning behind a proposal making them a useful research source. 

COM documents are sometimes referred to as “legislation in preparation” or “preparatory acts.” 

Parliamentary Questions:  Written questions from Parliament members to the Council and Commission are available as well as the responses from the Council or Commission.

Opinions of the Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions:  When these committee are involved in the consultation process, they issue reports that contain the committee opinions and recommendations.