Hester Swift, June 2017
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The European Union (EU) developed from the three European Communities founded in the 1950s: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). It became the 'European Union' under the Maastricht Treaty of 1992; this treaty provided that the European Communities should remain in existence as part of the EU and changed the name of the European Economic Community to 'European Community' (EC).
The Coal and Steel Community was wound up in 2002 and the European Community ceased to exist in December 2009 when it was subsumed into the European Union under the Treaty of Lisbon. Euratom is still going, however.
From the original six member states of the 1950s, the EU has grown to a total of twenty-eight member states today.The UK joined in 1973, but gave notice on 29 March 2017 that it is going to leave.
The EU has its own courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court (formerly 'Court of First Instance'). From 2004 until September 2016, it also had a third court, the Civil Service Tribunal, but this body has been dissolved and its jurisdiction has been transferred to the General Court.
The main legislative and policy-making bodies of the European Union are the Council of the European Union (also known as the 'Council of Ministers'), the European Parliament and the European Commission. The EU official publisher is the Publications Office of the European Union.
The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library has a substantial collection of European Union material of legal interest, from the 1950s to the present day. It is not, however, an EU depository; larger collections of EU official publications can be found at EU Documentation Centres (EDCs). The nearest EDC is at the London School of Economics Library (British Library of Political and Economic Science).
At IALS, the EU collection is kept on the third floor, with some additional material is in the Short Loan Collection on the second floor, or in the basement Reserve. Several databases containing EU information are also available.
The Official Journal of the European Union, or 'OJ', is the European Union’s official gazette. It publishes EU legislation, minutes of the European Parliament, the common positions of the Council of the EU, case summaries, notices and many other types of official document.
The Official Journal was originally the gazette of the European Coal and Steel Community, from 1952 until 1958. It was published in French, Dutch, Italian and German; the French edition was called Journal officiel de la Communauté Européene du charbon et de l'acier. It soon became the gazette of all the European Communities, with the French title Journal officiel des Communautés européennes. At first there was only one series, but in 1968 it divided into two: the L series and the C series.
The English edition began in 1973, as the Official Journal of the European Communities. It changed its name in February 2003, to Official Journal of the European Union. The OJ is now published in twenty-three languages.
The printed OJ used to be the only authentic source of EU legislation, but the online version on EUR-Lex was given authentic status from 1 July 2013 onwards. The print edition ceased publication at the end of 2013.
OJ series and sub-series
There are two main series of the Official Journal, plus the public procurement supplement: -
Subseries: some issues of the OJ C have 'E', 'A' or 'I' after the issue number, e.g. OJ C 183E.
The CE, CI and CA issues of the Official Journal are scattered through the main C series on EUR-Lex, not listed separately. However, it is possible to display the OJ CA - but not the other series - using filters at the top of the OJ page.
Official Journal references consist of the series, issue number, date and page numbers. They usually follow this pattern:
OJ L 12, 16.1.2001 p. 1–23
OJ C 70, 27.3.2007 p. 9-12
However, documents published in the C series sometimes have references in the form '2000/C 264/03', meaning OJ C, 2000, issue 264, item three (not page three).
Print and microfiche holdings at IALS
IALS holds the entire Official Journal (except the S Series) in English and/or French, from 1952 up to the end of print publication in 2013:-
L Series 1973 to 2013 (1973 to 1995 also on microfiche; online-only from 2014)
C Series 1996 to 2013 in print (1973 to 1995 also on microfiche; online-only from 2014)
Official Journal of the European Communities: special edition (English translations of laws in force when the UK and Ireland joined in 1973)
Journal officiel de la Communauté Européene du charbon et de l'acier / des Communautés européennes / de l'Union européenne,1958 to 2008 (microfiche only 1978-2008).
The Official Journal is on the European Union's EUR-Lex website from the start (1952) up to the latest issues. However, the online version only has authentic status from 1 July 2013 onwards.
The OJ S (Supplement), which publishes public procurement notices, is available on Tenders Electronic Daily (TED). Current notices are available to all and registered users of TED may also access a five-year archive.
Westlaw UK and Lexis®Library both include the contents of the L Series (that is, EU legislation) back to 1952, as individual documents, not arranged in the form of journal issues. IALS subscribes to all three databases - see Electronic Law Library.
Westlaw UK has documents published in the C Series back to about 1980, plus a few 1970s documents (all come under 'Information and Notices' on the EU page); Lexis®Library has them back to 2000 (under 'EU Materials').
The EU's primary legislation consists of treaties concerning the structure and functions of the EU, plus the accession treaties admitting new member states. The Treaties page of EUR-Lex is the most convenient source of these instruments: it includes the original texts, plus consolidated versions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Treaty on European Union and EURATOM Treaty (see below for detailed information about print and online sources of the Treaties).
The founding treaties
Renamed Treaty Establishing the European Community (EC Treaty, or TEC) as from 1 November 1993.
Renamed again, as Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), from 1 December 2009.
The articles of this treaty have been renumbered twice during the treaty reform process over the years. Article-number conversion tables are annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam and Treaty of Lisbon (which did the renumbering); a table combining both sets of changes is available on the OUP website (accompanying Woods & Watson, Steiner & Woods EU Law, 12th edition, OUP, 2014).
Other EU primary legislation includes reform treaties such as the Single European Act (1986), Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and Treaty of Lisbon (2007), as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights (2010).
For an overview of EU primary legislation, see 'Building Europe through the Treaties', in the Legislation Summaries section of EUR-Lex.
Sources of the Treaties
EUR-Lex: almost all the original texts are on EUR-Lex; this includes the ECSC, EEC and Euratom Treaties (though the latter are not in English, as there were no English-speaking signatories). One or two of the early minor treaties are missing from EUR-Lex, for example, the Treaty amending the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (Traité portant modification au Traité instituant la Communauté Européenne du Charbon et de l´Acier), Luxembourg, 27 October 1956 (published in Luxembourg's official gazette, the Mémorial, 19 February 1957).
The OJ C: consolidated (amended) versions of the key treaties, such as the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, are published periodically in the C series of the OJ. At the time of writing, the latest consolidation was in OJ C 202, 07.06.2016. All these consolidated versions are also available on EUR-Lex, Lexis and Westlaw.
Monograph editions: various consolidated versions of the key treaties have been issued as monographs by the EU Publications Office, under titles such as European Union: selected instruments taken from the treaties and Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. IALS has many of these compilations.
Other sources: these include Blackstone's EU treaties & legislation, published annually by Oxford University Press, and the looseleaf, Smit & Herzog on the law of the European Union (LexisNexis Matthew Bender, 2005-). Both titles are held at IALS, but Smit & Herzog is no longer updated.
Types of secondary legislation
The main forms of secondary legislation are directives, regulations and decisions; other forms include recommendations and opinions. Directives, regulations and decisions are classed as 'legislative acts' when they are passed by the European Parliament and Council of the EU using the ordinary legislative procedure (art. 294 TFEU) or a special legislative procedure (art. 289(2) TFEU). Legislation made using other procedures - for example delegated and implementing legislation made by the European Commission - are classed as 'non-legislative acts' (but they are still types of legislation).
Further information about types of EU legislation may be found in the European Commission's ABC of EU Law (Publications Office, 2017), p.90 onwards (freely available from the EU Bookshop); see also 'European Union (EU) hierarchy of norms' (in the EUR-Lex Glossary).
The EU gives each instrument a reference consisting of the year and a serial number, for example:
Regulation (EC) no. 6/2002...on Community designs; or Regulation (EU) 2015/848*...on insolvency proceedings
85/648/EEC, Council Decision of 19 December 1985 on import quotas…
Since January 2015, regulation references have taken the form YYYY/N, to match the format for directives and decisions (previously a regulation reference had the number first and year second).
Every piece of EU legislation also has a uniform resource identifier (URI) for technical purposes, such as the creation of machine-readable links: the European Legislation Identifier (ELI). A EUR-Lex FAQ has more information about the ELI.
Printed sources of secondary legislation
All secondary legislation is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Until 1 July 2013, the print edition of the OJ was the authentic source of secondary legislation, but from 1 July 2013 onwards the authentic source is the online version, which is available on the EUR-Lex website (the printed OJ ceased publication in 2014).
IALS holds a complete run of the printed OJ, including the English Special Edition, a collection of secondary legislation in force when the UK and Ireland joined the European Communities in 1973, translated into English.
IALS Library's sources of hard-copy consolidated legislation include Blackstone's EU treaties & legislation, which reproduces a selection of secondary instruments, and Blackstone's UK and EC Competition Documents (both published by Oxford University Press).
All secondary legislation is on EUR-Lex. N.B. EUR-Lex and other online sources default to showing the original text of EU legislation, with lists of amendments attached, not the consolidated text.
Consolidated versions of secondary legislation (versions incorporating amendments) are available on EUR-Lex and Lexis, but the latest consolidation is not always up-to-date.To check if a consolidation is up-to-date:-
search for the directive/regulation/decision on EUR-Lex
in the results list, note the date of the latest consolidation*
still on the results list page, click on the title of the directive/regulation/decision
open the Document Information tab, then scroll down to the heading 'Amended by'
check whether there have been any amendments since the date of the latest consolidation
*New consolidations appear first in the EUR-Lex search results list, under ‘Latest consolidated version’ (and also on the home page under ‘Recently Published’). After a few weeks they are then added to the instrument's Document Information tab.
Other online sources: all secondary legislation is also on Westlaw, Justis and Lexis®Library; these databases are available to authorised users via the IALS Electronic Law Library. Lexis has consolidated texts in a collection called 'EU Legislation: Consolidated Versions', as well as original legislation (with lists of amendments). Westlaw only has the original versions, with lists of amendments.
EU legislative procedures
Legislative acts are passed by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union using the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (formerly 'Codecision Procedure') and special legislative procedures. These procedures are explained on the website of the Council of the EU.
Implementing acts are made by the Commission with the help of committees and this procedure is therefore known as 'comitology' - see Commission FAQ on comitology. Delegated legislation follows different procedures - see Commission FAQ on delegated legislation.
Further information about the various EU legislative procedures may be found in Paul Craig and Gráinne de Búrca, EU Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (6th edition, OUP 2015), chapter 5.
Tracking the legislative process
To check the progress of ongoing EU legislation, see:
Legislative Procedures section of EUR-Lex (this has replaced the European Commission's old PreLex database)
Legislative Observatory, the European Parliament's legislation-tracking database
Both EUR-Lex and the Legislative Observatory list the completed or ongoing stages of the procedure, from the original Commission proposal up to the final adoption of the act. They give links to associated documents such as parliamentary committee reports, Council common positions and press releases. It is best to check both EUR-Lex and the Legislative Observatory, as one may be more up-to-date than the other; each EUR-Lex Legislative Procedures record has a link to its equivalent in the Legislative Observatory.
For delegated and implementing legislation, see:
Interinstitutional Register of Delegated Acts - a European Commission database showing the progress of delegated acts
Comitology Register - a European Commission database showing the progress of implementing acts
Implementation (transposition) of directives
Directives are an indirect form of legislation: each member state has to implement - or 'transpose' - them in its own law. The UK normally uses statutory instruments to implement directives, although occasionally an act of parliament is required.
Details of implementing legislation for each member state are given on EUR-Lex and Westlaw, but not on Lexis®Library. On EUR-Lex, the information is on the 'National Transposition' tab for the directive. To get to this tab, click on the title of directive in the search results list (not on the pdf or html icons). On Westlaw, look up the directive, then click on 'National Measures'.
If EUR-Lex has no implementation details for a particular member state, do not assume the directive has not been implemented, but double-check using the following sources (all available at IALS):
The EU Courts
The EU has two courts:
the Court of Justice: established in 1952, heard its first case in 1954; often known as the 'European Court of Justice' (ECJ), but this is not its formal title. Not to be confused with the European Court of Human Rights, which does not belong to the EU.
the General Court: established in 1988 as the 'Court of First Instance' (CFI) and heard its first case in 1989; was renamed 'General Court' in 2009.
There used to be a third judicial body, the Civil Service Tribunal, which operated from 2006 until summer 2016, hearing employment cases involving the staff of the EU institutions. It was closed down in September 2016 and the General Court has now taken over EU staff cases.
When an EU case is first registered it is given a reference consisting of an alphabetic prefix, a serial number and the year of registration. Entering the case number is the quickest way to find a case on the Curia or EUR-Lex websites.
The prefix comes from the French name of the court: -
Until 1989, alphabetic prefixes were not used, because there was only one court. Case numbers consisted simply of a number and the year of registration, for example 290/84.
Opinions of the advocates general
Almost all Court of Justice cases used to have two stages: first the Advocate-General’s opinion, then the judgment (usually a few months later). However, in recent years many ECJ cases have not had an opinion stage - for statistics, see the judicial activity section of the Court's annual reports.
General Court / Court of First Instance cases only have one stage, the judgment, although there are a few exceptions (for example case T-51/89 had an advocate general's opinion as well as a judgment).
Printed sources of EU cases
The official series of EU law reports is Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance. It is usually known as the 'European Court Reports' (ECR), but this is not its actual title. The printed ECR published cases decided from 1954 to 2011, after which it was replaced by an official online-only edition.
IALS Library has the entire printed English ECR. The title has changed over the years: Reports of cases before the Court of Justice of the European Coal and Steel Community, then Reports of cases before the Court, then Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance. IALS also has the French edition of the ECR, from 1954 to 2003; the German edition, from 1954 to 1998 part 2; the Dutch edition, from 1954 to 1964; and the Italian edition, from 1954 to 1964.
From 1994 until the end of August 2016, there was a sub-series of the ECR called European Court Reports...Staff Cases (ECR-SC). It published cases concerning employees of EU institutions. This title is held at IALS from 1994 to 2006. The printed edition ceased publication with the 2009 volumes and the title became online-only. ECR-SC has now ceased publication entirely and staff cases are published in the main series, Reports of Cases..., (see background information on Curia website).
The ECR used to publish every case in full, in contrast to the UK's selective law reporting practice. Since 2004, however, less important cases have been omitted, although brief details are given; the full report of these cases can be found on Curia and on EUR-Lex.
After the creation of the Court of First Instance (now called the General Court) in 1989, the ECR was divided into two sections: Section I covered the ECJ and Section II the CFI. Citations took the form  ECR II-469 (meaning 1991, part II, starting at page 469). However, the online-only ECR does not have separate sections for the two courts and it numbers each case from page one; this means that EU cases decided from 2012 onwards have had to be cited in a different way, using the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) - see below for details.
The C series of the Official Journal of the European Union publishes case summaries a few months after the judgment. It also publishes court notices.
Selected EU cases appear in commercially-published law reports, often before they are available in the ECR. These series include:
IALS has all of these titles.
All EU cases are available on the website of the EU courts, Curia. This includes the online-only official edition of the European Court Reports. To search all cases, use the site's InfoCuria database. To browse the online-only ECR, click here and select 'Access to the online Reports of Cases'.
Both pending and decided cases are covered by InfoCuria. The Curia website also provides numerical lists of all cases, with cross-references to joined cases and links to the full text of decisions and related documents.
The EUR-Lex website has all EU cases as well; it includes the online-only official ECR. EUR-Lex lists journal articles commenting on a given case, on the 'About this Document' tab attached to the case.
EU cases are also on Westlaw and Lexis®Library. However, Lexis omits those judgments that are not available in English (the ones that are not published in full in the ECR).
The European Case Law Identifier (ECLI)
The European Case Law Identifer is a uniform reference for cases. It is used not just by the EU, but by some individual countries (for example, the Netherlands) for their own cases, and also by the European Patent Office. The ECLI was introduced by the EU in 2014, but ECLIs have also been assigned retrospectively to all EU cases (back to 1954).
An example of a full ECLI is:
ECLI:EU:C:2017:73 = ECLI for an EU case decided by the Court of Justice in 2017, number 73.
For General Court cases, the court code is 'T'. ECLIs are assigned when a case is decided. The final number in an ECLI is not the same as the case number assigned when the case was first registered.
The EU now cites all cases - however old - using the ECLI rather than a European Court Reports reference. Some commercially-published journals and law reports still use the ECR citation for older cases, but give the ECLI for cases decided from 2012 onwards (that is, cases published in the official online-only ECR, which do not have traditional ECR references).
Whereas the same ECR citation is used for the Advocate General's opinion and the final judgment in the case, the opinion and judgment will have different ECLIs.
European Union competition cases, such as antitrust investigations and merger scrutinies, are usually dealt with by the European Commission or national competition authorities. EU and national courts hear some competition cases, however.
The Official Journal C series publishes information about the different stages of a competition case, including notices concerning new cases, announcements that a merger has been cleared, opinions of the advisory committees and some Commission decisions.
The Official Journal L series publishes some types of competition decision by the Commission, for example, Commission Decision of 5 December 2001 relating to a proceeding under Article 81 of the EC Treaty (Case IV/37.614/F3 PO/Interbrew and Alken-Maes), OJ L 200, 07.08.2003, p. 59-84.
The Report on Competition Policy, published annually by the European Commission, is a survey of each year’s competition activities from 1971 to date. It includes some information published in the OJ: for example, it lists cases closed by “comfort letter” (a feature of the pre-May 2004 competition regime). The Reports are available on the EU's Competition website (for older reports, there are links to the EU Law and Publications portal). IALS Library has the printed reports from 1971 to 2008.
The Antitrust supplement to Sweet and Maxwell's Common Market Law Reports reproduces Commission decisions, court decisions, notices and other documents. IALS has this series.
The EC Merger Control Reporter, a multi-volume looseleaf work (IALS Library's copy last updated in 2007), includes merger decisions with commentary, legislation, notices, guidelines, court decisions and agreements with non-EU parties (such as the United States). It has a chronological index and an index of party names.
The main source of information about EU competition policy is the European Commission's Competiton website. It provides case databases (details below), legislation, rules, guidelines and the annual Report on Competition Policy.
EUR-Lex, Westlaw and Lexis®Library have competition decisions as well as the notices published in the Official Journal L and C series.
The European Competition Network coordinates enforcement of EC competition rules by the member states’ national competition authorities and the European Commission. Its website provides background information, legislation and links to the national competition authorities’ websites.
COM documents, or 'COM docs', are a series of official publications produced by the European Commission for the attention of other EU institutions, such as the Council of the EU or the European Parliament. They have reference numbers prefixed 'COM' (standing for 'Commission'), for example, COM (2000) 529. They include numerous different types of document, such as proposals for legislation, green papers, white papers and reports on the implementation of policy.
Printed COM documents ceased publication in April 2003; the series is now online-only, via EUR-Lex.
IALS holds some printed COM documents of legal interest. Each has its own catalogue record, but most of them have the same IALS classmark: FOL GO1.A1.J.45.
As well as being published separately, COM documents were reproduced in the Official Journal, C Series, until 2003. Proposals for legislation - a type of COM doc - appear in the OJ C without the explanatory memorandum that is found in the original document.
EUR-Lex has all COM documents from 1999 onwards, together with selected earlier ones. EUR-Lex has been the official source of COM docs since they ceased print publication in 2003.
Archive of European Integration: provided by the University of Pittsburgh, this website makes available many COM documents which are too old to be found online elsewhere, including green and white papers and well-known reports.
Westlaw: includes the full text of COM documents from around the mid-1990s onwards, under 'Preparatory Acts'.
Lexis®Library: COM documents are available from around the mid-1990s onwards, under 'EU Materials' ('Preparatory Documents').
The EU makes international agreements with non-EU countries and other international bodies - and the member states of the EU also make international agreements among themselves, on certain subjects.
International agreements are published in the L series of the Official Journal, for example:
Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan on the facilitation of the issuance of visas, OJ L 128, 30.4.2014, p. 49–60.
The Council of the European Union’s Treaty Office has an Agreements Database providing the text of each agreement, with status information. It covers all agreements since 1989, plus older agreements which are still in force and some important old agreements which are no longer in force. (It also includes the fundamental treaties, the EU's primary legislation.)
Another database of international agreements is made available by the European Commission’s Treaty Office. This database only covers international agreements with external parties; it excludes primary legislation ('The Treaties') and international agreements among EU member states. It provides a summary of each agreement as well as the full text and status information; it also provides analytical lists ('ready inventories'), for example, a list of all agreements which include a declaration of competence by the EU.
EU international agreements are also on EUR-Lex, Westlaw and Lexis.
IALS Library has a large collection of books on many different aspects of European Union law. Most - but not all - are found in the third floor reading room at classmark GO1.A1 (see Library Catalogue for details).
Introductory works include the following:
Dashwood, Alan, et al, Wyatt & Dashwood's European Union Law. 6th ed. (Hart, 2011)
These are a few of our recently-acquired titles:
Lasok, K. P. E., Lasok's European Court practice and procedure (Bloomsbury Professional, 2017)
Dimitry Kochenov (ed.), EU citizenship and federalism: the role of rights (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
Rainer Kattel, Jan Kregel and Mario Tonveronachi (ed.s), Financial regulation in the European Union (Routledge, Taylor & Francis 2016)
FinD-Er, the online catalogue/discovery tool of the European Commission Libraries, can be used as a bibliography, since it gives details of individual journal articles as well as monographs and serials. Search by key word, then select 'articles' and/or other material types from the filters on the left. (Full-text articles are restricted to Commission Library members.)
European Current Law, a print publication held at IALS, has a bibliographical section.
A number of old bibliographies are held at IALS classmark BG110. The most up-to-date title is the Court of Justice Library’s Legal bibliography of European integration (1981-1999).
European Current Law, published by Thomson Reuters / Sweet and Maxwell, provides monthly digests of selected EU legislation and case law, arranged by subject. It also lists journal articles, books, legislation, cases, competition decisions, implementing measures and other information. The monthly parts cumulate into yearbooks. IALS has this series from 1973 to 2014.
The following are some of the journals in IALS Library which are specifically focused on EU or European law:
Columbia Journal of European Law
Common Market Law Review
European Business Law Review
European Intellectual Property Review
European Law Review
European Public Law
Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law
Revue trimestrielle de droit européen
Some of these titles are available online as well as in printed format; there are links to the online versions from the Library Catalogue.
Many non-specialist journals also publish articles on EU law. To conduct a thorough literature search, use the following databases:
Westlaw and Lexis®Library both include EU official publications from the 1950s to date, as described in the individual sections above. IALS also subscribes to online journal indexes and full-text journal databases, as described in the Journals section, above.
For further information about databases for EU law research, see our Databases guide.
A large amount of EU information can be found on free websites - key sites are listed below. For more EU-related websites, see the Eagle-i portal - select 'European Union' from the Country menu.
EUR-Lex: the EU's law database, containing the Official Journal; primary and secondary legislation; cases; COM documents, including green papers, white papers and proposals for legislation; international agreements; EFTA documents; details of the progress of EU legislation (under 'Legislative Procedures'); and summaries of legislation, by subject. EUR-Lex used to include parliamentary questions as well, but these are now only available on the Europarl website.
Europa Newsroom: the EU's news website, with press releases from all the EU institutions and agencies, plus factsheets and a calendar of events.