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Law and Legal Research: Finding EU Law

Primary legislation

Primary legislation of the EU comprises treaties concerning the structure and function of the EU, plus accession treaties admitting new member states. The original founding treaties were:

  • Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community  (ECSC)
  • Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)
  • Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (EEC). Renamed Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as from December 2009. Sometimes known as the 'Treaty of Rome'.
  • Treaty on European Union ('Maastricht Treaty'), signed in 1992, in force 1993. Founded the European Union and transformed the European Economic Community (EEC) into the European Community (EC). Sometimes known as 'the EU Treaty', or 'TEU'.  The Treaties of Amsterdam and Lisbon renumbered the articles of this treaty as well as those of the Treaty of Rome (see above)

Other primary legislation includes the Single European Act (1986), the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). Lisbon came into force on 1 December 2009; see Europa website for further details.

Secondary legislation

There are three types of secondary legislation: directives, regulations and decisions. Examples of each, with document reference numbers, are as follows:

  • Directives: year/number, for example, Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste
  • Regulations: number/year, for example, Regulation (EC) no. 6/2002...on Community designs
  • Decisions: year/number, for example, 85/648/EEC, Council Decision of 19 December 1985 on import quotas…

Two-digit years were used in these reference numbers until 1999.  

Each member state has to implement directives in its own law. The UK normally implements directives by means of statutory instruments, although occasionally an act of Parliament is used.

Finding EU case law

The official series of EU law reports is Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance, usually known as the 'European Court Reports' (ECR). The print edition covers cases heard from 1954 to 2011; it ceased publication in Spring 2014, after the last volume of 2011 cases came out.