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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.

Citing the O.J.

See Bluebook rule 21.9

A basic citation to the Official Journal looks like this: 

                        2009 O.J. (L 311) 35. 

2009 :  The year this issue of the O.J. was published

O.J. :  Abbreviation for Official Journal

(L 311) :  This parenthetical information identifies the series (the L series contains legislation) and that the issue number is 311.

35 :  The pinpoint reference.  On this specific page, the document cited begins.

When citing legislative acts of the Council and Commision, more than just the O.J. citation is necessary to identify the act:

Council Regulation 1355/2008, Imposing a Definitve Anti-dumping Duty and Collecting Definitively the Provisional Duty Imposed on Imports of Certain Prepared or Preserved Fruits, 2009 O.J. (L 47) 35.

Council Regulation 1308/99, Laying Down a Community Procedure for the Establishment of maximum Residue Limits of Veterinary Medicinal Products in Foodstuffs of Animal Origins, 1999 O.J. (L 156) 1.

Notice in the first example the year (2008) includes all four digits.  Notice in the second example, the year (1999) is represented by the last two digits of the year.  The Bluebook examples present this variation but don't provide any guidance for when the entire year as opposed to the last two digit is used.  My advice is to cite the year in the same way you see it in the O.J.  For practical purposes, that means that anything from the year 2000 forward will use all four digits of the year.  Acts prior to 2000 will often be expressed with only the last two digits of the year.

Council Decision 2008/336, Appointing and Replacing Members of the Governing Board of the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 2008 O.J. (L 115) 32.

Commission Directive 2006/75/EC, Amending Council Directive 91/414/EC to Include Dimoxystrobin as Active Substance, 2006 O.J. (L 248) 3.

When citing a Regulation, the regulation number goes first followed by a slash and the date.  When citing legislation other than regulations (Directives, Decisions, Opinions, etc.) the date goes first followed by a slash and the document number.  The Bluebook offers no explanation of this.  It is simply the way these instruments are cited in the O.J. and the Bluebook examples reflect this practice.


The Official Journal can be compared to the Federal Register in that it is published every business day and documents governmental activity.  However, the scope of the OJ is much broader than the Federal Register.   The OJ contains final and proposed legislation, summaries of cases and a wide range of other documents related to the treaties, secondary legislation and cases.  In this way, the OJ serves as the official source of most EU legal instruments.  Remarkably, the OJ is published in all twenty languages spoken by Member States.  

 Coverage begins with 1998.  It is published in three parts: the L Series, C Series and S Series.

Click here for more information about the Official Journal.

Access the Official Journal on EUR-LEX

The L Series

L Series contains EU legislation.  Secondary legislation is based on the treaties and may take the following form:

 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.

The C Series

C Series contains EU information and notices including:

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.” 

 Cases:  Summaries of cases from the Court of Justice and the General Court are included.  Citation infomation is available. Use EUR-LEX, CURIA or Westlaw/Lexis to retrieve the full text.  Reports from the Court of Auditors is also included.

 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.

The S Series

S Series:  The supplement to the Official Journal contains information about public supply contracts.