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European Union Law: An Integrated Guide to Electronic and Print Research

Marylin Johnson Raisch is the Librarian for International and Foreign Law at the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library of the Georgetown Law Center. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law (1980) with work both in civil and common law courses as well as international law and Roman law. She holds degrees in English literature from Smith College ( B.A. magna cum laude 1973) and St. Hugh's College, Oxford (M.Litt. 1978). She received her M.L.S. degree from Columbia University School of Library Service in 1988 and has worked as a law librarian for fifteen years, ten of which were at Columbia University School of Law as International and Foreign Law Librarian. Marylin has edited (with Roberta I. Shaffer) the resulting volume of proceedings, Transnational Legal Transactions (Oceana, 1995) and is the author of several articles, book reviews, and web guides on international and foreign legal research. Recent examples include the chapter "European Union: Basic Legal Sources" in Rehberg and Popa, Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research (Littleton, CO: Rothman, 1998) and other legal research guides at LLRX as well as Religious Legal Systems: A Brief Guide to Research and Its Role in Comparative Law (2006).


The European Union is a twenty-seven member political entity with its population now almost half a billion. This common market and its "ever-closer union" of political cooperation is unique in the world and in world history. Its evolving legal system is now one which is such a strong player on the global scene that academic and practising lawyers alike in all areas of trade and business can benefit from greater familiarity with its institutions and sources of law. The Treaty on the Accession of 10 new Member States, which was signed on 16 April 2003, entered into force on 1 May 2004. Now that Bulgaria and Romania acceded on the 1st of January 2007, the EU is composed of 27 Member States. The list of current members and applicant countries is at http://europa.eu/abc/european_countries/index_en.htm.

There are five major institutions in the European Union: the twenty-seven member Commission, the Council, the European Parliament, the Court of Justice, and the Court of Auditors. The Commission proposes legislation and policies, the Council approves legislation and can propose legislation of its own, and the Parliament gives its opinion on proposals, amended proposals, and addresses questions to the Commission. The Court of Justice enforces the legislation under the Treaties, and the Court of Auditors examines expenses and revenue of the Communities. See "Key players in EU legislation," http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/about/pap/index.html

The Economic and Social Committee represents civil and social policy interest groups and may be consulted for opinions, linked at http://eesc.europa.eu/.

The Committee of the Regions, http://www.cor.europa.eu/ contributes opinions and consultations for the implementation of many EU policies at the closest regional or national level under the principle of subsidiarity emphasized in the Maastricht agreement.

The Treaty on European Union established a more cohesive intergovernmental entity supporting three "pillars" or spheres of operation:

1. EC law as well as economic institutions and activities

2. Common Foreign and Security Policy

3. Justice and Home Affairs

A. Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, http://european-convention.eu.int/docs/Treaty/cv00850.en03.pdf the first two parts of which were presented and approved by the European Council in Thessaloniki on 20 June 2003, is still under consideration (text now complete in four parts) as of 18 July 2003 with the Rome Declaration, http://european-convention.eu.int/docs/Treaty/Rome_EN.pdf . Its aim overall is to integrate all the treaty provisions and the conceptual "pillars" above into a coherent and efficient whole that is very close to a European federation. Important changes to the structure and operation of the institutions and processes described in this guide, which will take place if this treaty is approved, will be noted in sections below on the treaties, the legislative process, and the court.

On 29 October 2004, the Heads of State of the then 25 Member States and the candidate countries signed the treaty and it was unanimously adopted by them on 18 June 2004.

However, referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005 resulted in a rejection of the language of the constitution, and in its "ratification and state of play" section of the constitutional web site, http://europa.eu.int/constitution/referendum_en.htm , the official position is stated as follows:

In the light of these results, the European Council, meeting on 16 and 17 June 2005, considered that "we do not feel that the date initially planned for a report on ratification of the Treaty, 1 November 2006, is still tenable, since those countries which have not yet ratified the Treaty will be unable to furnish a clear reply before mid2007." A period of reflection, explanation and discussion is currently under way in all countries, whether or not they have ratified the Constitution. The state of discussions on ratification of the Constitutional Treaty will be examined by the European Council under the Austrian Presidency (in the first half of 2006).

The process of ratification by the Member States has therefore not been abandoned. If necessary, the timetable will be adjusted to reflect the circumstances in the countries which have not yet ratified the Treaty.

Research guides already abound, and one aim of this "integrated guide" will be to offer a selection of these, both official and unofficial, in the context of research strategies. The other goals will be 1) to provide a context for categories of sources within this body of law and 2) to provide a template for research across all formats given that, even with electronic access to the materials, researchers face large amounts of documentation and terminology that is unique and perhaps unfamiliar. Most references will be to the official web site of the EU, http://europa.eu/ .

The following topics will be covered in this guide:

  • Treaties establishing the European Union
  • Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam, and Nice
  • Intergovernmental Conferences (IGCs)
  • Implications of the Draft Constitution for Europe
  • Legislation
  • Legislative process and history
  • Basic documentation
  • Documenting the process
  • Commission
  • Parliament
  • Council
  • Case law
  • Periodical literature and other sources
  • Implementing legislation at the national level
  • Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
  • Citation issues and "a guide to the guides"

1. Treaties establishing the European Union

Treaties are the Primary Legislation of the European Union, much as a constitution or civil code might be for public and private areas of national law. The Treaty on European Union was signed in Maastricht in February 1992 and came into force November 1, 1993. A consolidated version of the TEU published in 2002 is at Official Journal C 325 of 24 December 2002 and in a scanned versions at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2006/ce321/ce32120061229en00010331.pdf. It is now the main constituent document of the European Union and sets forth the institutional and political arrangements of "the new Europe." It added a new treaty alongside the Treaty Establishing the European Community. Research tip: EU law is often organized according to the topics set forth in the articles of the governing treaty, and this includes finding aids for legislation and commentary. Terminology used in indexing legislation and case law often tracks this language closely as well.

For officially-published texts in print/PDF, see European Union: consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community

(Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities), 2003.

(The latter office, known formerly as OOPEC, is now using EUR-OP as its imprint for most official documents). Major treaty commentaries may be found via online catalogues locally or via RLIN, OCLC, and the Internet, often under the subject headings "European Federation" or "Treaty on European Union." This Treaty on European Union (TEU) was amended in part by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which was signed in 1997 and, after ratification by all the Member States, came into force on 1 May 1999.

The Treaty of Nice, http://www.europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/treaties/dat/nice_treaty_en.pdf further amends the existing treaties. Signed on 26 February 2001, it entered into force on 1 February 2003.

Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam, and Nice

Four cities have given romantic but potentially confusing "nicknames" to a series of documents which have imparted structural changes to the European "common market" over the past decade. The changes are complex, the more so because the documents refer to, and affect, different parts of parts of what used to be known simply as "the European Communities" and created the new entity known as the European Union. And to make matters worse for research and citation, the Treaty of Amsterdam altered the numbering of the TEU and the "E.C. Treaty" (which is how one commonly refers to the Treaties of Rome). Feeling confused? Please refer to the Treaties Page at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/index.htm where both current and pre-Amsterdam versions of the treaties reside. The following brief table is intended to serve as a guide:

Treaty Name


Main Features



Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community*

Original treaty setting up a common market, itself amended 1) by a Merger Treaty (1967) to give it and the other two treaties a common set of institutions, and 2) a Single European Act (SEA) for European Political Cooperation in foreign policy

Council with direct member representation;

Commission which initiates and executes Council decisions;

A Court of Justice and Assembly or European Parliament (EP).

SEA introduces a co-operation procedure, enlarging role of EP in legislative process

As amended to date, still the
"First Pillar" of economic union and trade relations for what has since become the European Union


Treaty on European Union, 1993

Treaty Establishing the European Communities

  • Brought into being the European Union, *founded on the European Communities, supplemented by intergovernmental co-operation formalized as
  • a common foreign and security policy and
  • a common justice and home affairs (crime) policy
  • subsidiarity principle

Amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam, 1999

And Nice, but with consolidated texts now,



Treaty of Amsterdam, 1999

Treaty on European Union

  • free movement of workers since 1993 enhanced with closer cooperation on security and crime, drug control, corruption, and terrorism
  • common borders (passport control) under incorporated Schengen Agreement
  • Co-decision for parliament and Council
  • More areas where Council of Ministers may decide using qualified majority voting instead of unanimity
  • New title on employment; inserts Social Chapter into main body of the treaty

In force but subject to amendment by Nice Agreement


Treaty of Nice

Treaty on European Union (as amended by Amsterdam)

  • Looking to enlargement of member states, 30 new treaty article areas of concern open to qualified majority voting of the Council
  • Co-decision :7 new areas

In force as of 1 February 2003

*"Treaties" of Rome, plural, may refer to all three founding treaties: The Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, which ended 23 July 2002 ,and the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Also called the European Communities, plural, until the Amsterdam treaty mandated the name "Treaty Establishing the European Community," singular.

The Treaty of Nice enhances Parliament's role as co-legislator and creates a new legal arrangement, allowing the Council to lay down regulations governing political parties at the European level. Anticipating the enlargement of the Union, the Treaty of Nice limits the number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to a maximum of 732 and allocates seats between Member States and candidate countries (when they become members of the Union). The Treaty of Nice information page at the Europa site is at http://ec.europa.eu/comm/nice_treaty/index_en.htm and includes a summary, a ratification chart, and, most conveniently, a list of exactly which topics in European Union law http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/nice_treaty/procedures_en.pdf (click once or twice into the PDF document), designated by articles of the amended TEU, will require decision by qualified majority voting in the Council.

Intergovernmental Conferences (IGCs)

The Intergovernmental Conferences are in the nature of major summit meetings held to negotiate and propose important changes to the European co-operative framework within, and recently, beyond, the context of the original EC common market. They are newly important as a source of information and travaux préparatoires for the amendment of the treaties and accession of new member states. A link to the 2000 IGC exists from the Treaty of Nice information page noted above.

For more context, see also the history section of Europa at http://europa.eu/abc/history/index_en.htm . The information is based on that found in the Bulletin of the European Union (10 times a year), revised annually as the General Report on the Activities of the European Union. To see the archives of European integration through its own "way-back machine" consult the European Integration History Index, a group project among the European University Institutes Library , the Historical Archives of the European Union and the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l'Europe, at their web history page http://vlib.iue.it/hist-eur-integration/WebHistory.html .

Convention on the Future of Europe and the draft Constitution

Finally, to broaden public participation and transparency in a wider forum for debate on the future of an "ever-closer union" with a greatly enlarged membership, the intergovernmental conference held in 2004 was preceded by a round of meetings, public discussions, e-mail contacts, and the like in a formal "debate on the future of the European Union" http://europa.eu.int/futurum/informations_en.htm#txt . The web site of the European Convention on the Future of Europe and its documentation is at http://european-convention.eu.int/ .

Based on themes set forth in the Laeken Declaration, http://europa.eu.int/futurum/documents/offtext/doc151201_en.htm , this phase of treaty consolidation moving towards a true constitution is hope for true citizen input. The process of institutional reform through the IGC of 2004 is summarized at http://europa.eu/roadtoconstitution/index_en.htm .

Draft Constitution at a glance:

Part I (which is just called Part I of the Constitution) consists of nine titles, from definitions and objectives to descriptions of institutions and membership, all set forth in terms of institutional powers and general principles, such as democracy, subsidiarity, and proportionality.

Part II will be the actual Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union as per Article 7 on Fundamental Rights. The EU as a whole will seek accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Council of Europe) http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/QueVoulezVous.asp?NT=005&CM=8&DF=7/18/2006&CL=ENG to clarify in the EU the status of the convention, which has been incorporated by reference in cases before the European Court of Justice (EU); this fulfills the goal stated by the Chairman of the European Convention on the Future of Europe, Valéry Giscard-d'Estaing, of "…the attribution of legal personality to the Union." Preface to the Draft Constitution, and Art. 6.

Part III, The Policies and Functioning of the Union, incorporates as chapters 1-3 of Title III, a current version of the original Rome Treaty's details on the internal market: goods and services, monetary and financial policy, and employment and social policy. The "justice and home affairs" or home security of Pillar III above is addressed in Chapter 4 of Title III; and the common external security and foreign policy, the old second pillar, is set forth in Title V, chapter 2, along with other issues of external relations regarding trade, treaties, and humanitarian aid.

2. Legislation

A European Union statutory text is considered Secondary Legislation within the legal framework of the EU, with the treaties serving as the Primary Legislation. can be any one of three types:

  • regulations, binding directly on member states;
  • directives, framework statutes binding only through enactment of a law within the member state of a similar law or amendment to laws harmonizing the member state's laws with the requirements of the directive;
  • decisions, of the European Council or Commission, binding only on the member states or parties to which it is addressed in interpreting the treaty, but indicative of the thinking of the body promulgating it and so a pointer to general policy for member states.
Legislative process and history

The legislative process for the European Union is more complex than that for most individual countries, including the United States. Legislative initiatives and the participation of a European Parliament take place under a complex set of rules. Decision-making in the major policy areas in the Amsterdam TEU proceeds as outlined at http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/a29000.htm but legislation under the original Article 189b of the TEU designated different procedures for different subject categories of legislation: consultation (document code CNS), co-operation (SYN), and co-decision (COD), to name the three most common.

Since Maastricht, emphasis has been on the co-decision procedure, with the Parliament and Council exercising legislative functions together in relationship to proposals, mostly from the Commission. The Amsterdam Treaty now provides that most legislation be adopted by the co-decision procedure.

If the Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe is eventually approved, procedures outlined in this guide will undergo changes, some of which are already detailed in the draft Constitution and in the White Paper on Governance in the European Union, 25 July 2001, COM(2001) 428 final, http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/cnc/2001/com2001_0428en01.pdf

Basic documentation

The source for all three types of legislation is a legal journal or gazette of the European Union which is still titled Official Journal of the European Communities. Luxembourg: OOPEC, 1964- (hereinafter OJ). Before 1973, when the United Kingdom joined the then European Economic Community, the OJ was published only in French, but there is now an OJ Special Edition which contains English translations of most of the legislation from 1964 through 1972. The OJ is published in two different parts, an "L" part and a "C" part. The legislation referred to above is all published in the "L" part. Locating legislation can be difficult in print because the index published with the OJ uses a very selective vocabulary; fortunately almost all research may now be done electronically through the official CELEX database via the Eur-Lex portal, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm

providing free access to the Official Journal of the European Communities, L, C, CA and CE Seriesin full text, electronic versions from 1998 to present and several paid subscription databases such as Westlaw, Justis from Context Ltd., and Lawtel, described more fully at the conclusion of the legislative process section, below.

Features of Legislative research on the Europa official web site

Eur-Lex on the europa.eu.int site is the best place to find all amendments to a piece of legislation consolidated in one text.

Consolidated acts and the Directory f Community Legislation in Force enable researchers to gather all versions of one act or all acts under one topic. From the Eur-lex page, http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/en/index.htm , click the link for "legislation in force." Once you are on that page, http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/en/legis/index.htm you can click "Directory of Community Legislation in Force" and browse the legislation under the defined chapter divisions, which are derived from the TEU. However, it is often the case that researchers will not know how the area of interest has been classified.

Most researchers therefore will begin with a search in the simple "search in legislation" feature provided in the left side bar. Note the options allow one to search the secondary legislation and then set other limits; unless you want to include the international agreements, a format for options on the initial search template page will look like this:

Let us run a search for "defective products" in the secondary legislation, which here includes regulations (you will find that products liability is not the term used!) Note that we also restricted the search initially to "acts in force" by checking the box at the bottom. Now we click search and go to the actual search screen and enter our terms:

Note that we limited the search to document titles. Upon comparing the results with this search and the "title and text" search, one learns that if the goal is to see legislation in force on product liability as usually defined for a that legal regime, the latter approach is too broad, but if the results are too limited one can always go back and run the broader search. The results with these parameters were as follows, ordered by date:

The bibliographic notice displays additional information including a link to consolidated texts, legislative history documents, and an option to "display the national implementing measures" (with additional sources discussed under section 5 below on "implementing legislation at the national level"). The example above shows the bibliographic notice for one of the defective products enactments retrieved in the search outlined above, Directive 1999/34/EC .

The application of Community law in member states is gathered in reports monitoring the adoption of directives at http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/eulaw/index_en.htm and ScadPlus summarizes implementing information by topic at http://europa.eu/scadplus/scad_en.htm.

If you are restricted to print sources, however, an alternative way to locate legislation using official or depository materials is to use the print version of the text named above, a two-volume Directory of Community Legislation in Force and other acts of the Community institutions. Luxembourg: OOPEC, 1984- . It is published twice a year and all the information is cumulated so that each semi-annual compilation includes all the legislation still "on the books." It is tricky for beginners in EU research, though, because the text and subdivisions of the Treaty determine the broad subject areas under which legislation appears. For example, even an American lawyer would not know at first that his own profession would be regulated under "freedom to provide services." But some brief attention to the TEU text and use of the somewhat better index to this publication will take you to a particular piece of legislation or all legislation on a topic.

Documenting the process

From the time that a Green Paper, http://europa.eu/documents/comm/green_papers/index_en.htmis issued to stimulate public discussion or a White Paper, http://europa.eu/documents/comm/white_papers/index_en.htm detailing the policy, is produced by the Commission, usually as a COM document (see below), the legislative process begins.

1) Commission

When legislation is introduced, the Commission presents draft legislation in the form of a Commission or "COM" document presenting the text of the law and a report on the issues addressed therein. The Commission is responsible for representing the agenda of member states. The Council of Ministers also sets for the issues it considers important for legislative action. Parliament does not originate legislation but plays a role in the subject areas designated for its greatest input in the treaties, such as the free movement of workers.

Each COM document is numbered with the year in parentheses, e.g., COM(96)606 (final). The document codes indicated above may appear to show which procedure applies to the area of law in question (that is, consultation (document code CNS), co-operation (SYN), or co-decision (COD)). The importance for the researcher of knowing the procedure is to predict which documents might exist in the legislative history of the proposal.

The Co-decision procedure outlined in Article 251 of the TEU (EC Treaty) would proceed as follows;

At a First Reading, the Commission would submit a proposal to the Parliament, which would then go to the Council for approval of those Parliamentary amendments or, the Council might instead adopt a Common Position.

At a Second Reading, Parliament might approve that Common Position (so proposal gets adopted), reject it, or propose amendments. These amendments receive Commission scrutiny for a Commission Opinion, and then the Council may or may not approve the amendments.

If the amendments are not approved, then a Conciliation Committee is formed to try to approve a joint text. Both Parliament and Council have to approve the joint text. If they do not or the joint text could not be reached by the Conciliation Committee, the act fails to pass. But if the joint text goes through, then it is adopted.

For a graphical presentation of the cooperation procedure, and a full description of the co-decision procedure, are linked through a pop-up window at the Pre-lex site for inter-institutional cooperation, http://ec.europa.eu/prelex/apcnet.cfm?CL=en .

2) Parliament

The increased role for Parliament is now easier to track in the above process thanks to the online chart produced by Pre-lex and OEIL (Legislative Observatory) at the EuroParl section of Europa, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/public.do?language=en using the Legislative Logbook, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/iris/en/tleg_form.htm .

These are the most useful sites on the European portal site for legislative tracking.

The Parliamentary documents will appear in a series called Session Documents (called "Working Documents" prior to 1987), and its "A" series contains committee reports on legislation sent to the plenary of Parliament, much as the committees of the US Congress report on pending bills. Texts Adopted is its other major text set, which can include the amendments to proposals. EU depositories may have these available in microfiche. The "Activities" tab at the Europarl site has an archive and this covers the 5th session (1000-2004) and part of the 4th session (1994-1999) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/archive/staticDisplay.do?id=120&pageRank=1&language=en . There is an overview of recent Texts Adopted under the Activities tab as well.

On Europa, recent Session Documents and Texts Adopted are also at Europarl; click "access to documents" and then "register of documents" to perform a search, or, one can browse by clicking another option on the left once you are on the search page, and this option is called "list of Parliament documents." If you get the list and open up its outline, you can drill down to reports of the Parliament and search them via the template below (links at this site are part of a dynamic system and must be anchored carefully in html)

>Documents relating to Parliamentary activity:

>Committee documents

>Reports-Committees …

Will take you to a list of documents for the 5th parliamentary session; to search more broadly requires use of the broader search template described above at "register of documents."

The "drill down" page

The broader search template page at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/registre/recherche/RechercheSimplifiee.cfm?langue=EN

Search results:

As indicated in the search result picture above, the Europarl site also contains relevant portions of the debates where opinions are reproduced and questions posed to the Commission. Official Journal of the European Communities, Annex: Debates of the European Communities is the official print source.

One can search written and oral questions at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/QP-WEB/home.jsp?language=en .Excerpts of the questions to the Commission are on Lexis under the same EUROPE library in the PARLQ file.

3) Council

The Council's action on proposals and amendments and its Common Positions and documents related to Conciliation are reported in the C series of the OJ as well, and these are now on the web at the Official Journal site in Europa, but the OJ on Lexis does not appear in full, so apart from the PREP draft texts cited above, only the final, approved legislation can be obtained in English in the EUROPE library in the LEGIS file. It will not track all of the above- cited legislative history.

Documentation of the Council's work is available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/cms3_fo/showPage.ASP?lang=en and includes the oversight of the two other "pillars" and not just the legislative role of the Council (see links to Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Economic and Monetary Affairs (EMU) Scientific and Technical Research(COST).

Common Positions may be found via the Parliament's OEIL or Legislative Observatory page at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/index.jsp?language=en . Procedure tracking for topics or specific proposed legislation underway and moving between the institutions in the complex procedural environment best begins at the search template at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/search.jsp and shown below:

Words in a title at left might be search as follow, and the results page is generated:

The middle term in the results on the next screen is of most interest:

And when you click on the red highlighted document, a green paper, you see the full status:

One can also get an overview of legislation through the Council's Co-decision guide http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/code_EN.pdf , which explains (and a chart tracks) the procedure for approval of legislation, but the clickable illustrative chart is only in French ("cp" will stand for "position commune").

Finally, recourse may be had to the C series of the Official Journal, once you have the citation, at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOIndex.do?ihmlang=en which is only archived back to 1998.

The other legislative procedures: consult PreLex under "help- description of the database" (as described on p. 12 above):

Co-operation procedure requires two readings in the parliament and the Council and is depicted in a graphical chart at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/droit_communautaire/procedure_de_cooperation.gif.

Consultation procedure: Council and Parliament get a copy of the Proposal from the Commission and the Council decides if it will consult Parliament. Certain TEU treaty articles require it.

To wrap up on legislation: ONLY final adopted texts of regulations, directives, or decisions published in the Official Journal L Series are binding.

Case Law

Official case reports for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Court of First Instance appear in the Reports of Cases before the Court. Luxembourg: Court of Justice of the European Communities,1959- , and these reports include the Opinions of Advocates-General. British legal publications refer to the set as the European Court Reports, abbreviated ECR. As with many official reports, they are slow to appear. Cases accepted and decisions rendered are also noticed (but not fully reported) in the "C" series of the Official Journal of the European Communities. There are slip decisions some libraries receive directly from the court for the ECJ and the Court of First Instance.

One can begin via Euro-lex: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm

CURIA, the official web site http://curia.europa.eu/ , provides full-text of recent opinions (not complete; many lack Advocate Generals' opinions) from 1997. A digest and alphabetical subject index, http://curia.europa.eu/en/content/outils/index.htm may be found as "research tools" under "proceedings" on the front page.

Case reports are also available on Lexis 1, in the EUROPE library in the CASES file, and on Westlaw via the EU-CS file.

In print, unofficial reports may be found in binders annexed to the European Union Law Reporter. This attached set, entitled European Community Cases, CCH, 1989- , abbreviated CEC, contains selected reports of cases from the Court of Justice and its index functions as a fairly good case-finding aid. For texts of judgments and opinions of the ECJ and higher British courts on EC law, consult the unofficial British-published Common Market Law Reports, Edinburgh, 1962-1979; London: Sweet & Maxwell,1979-.

The application of European Community law by national courts and legislatures as a result of ECJ judgments is summarized annually and these summaries are posted at http://curia.europa.eu/en/coopju/apercu_reflets/lang/index.htm

Summary: document location and databases

The following chart lists major documents and case reports and their location in full text at the Europa official web site and the two major legal databases in North America, Westlaw and Lexis. However, other fee-based services offer enhanced access to much of the same documentation. The following three services are among the more prominent:

  • Justis by Context Ltd.: Celex and Official Journal C Series databases; a new companion index JustCite. These databases contain document references and references to national implementing legislation, some from as far back as 1951, C series from 1990, and COM documents from 1995. Common Market Law Reports from 1962 as well as ECJ Proceeding (an updating information service) from 1996.
  • Lawtel (Sweet & Maxwell), www.lawtel.com . Proposals for Directives, Regulations, Decisions and Recommendations as soon as they are issued, Amended Proposals, Common Positions, EP Resolutions (since May 1999), all COMDOCs since 1987, Opinions of the Economic and Social Committee as well as Opinions of the Committee of the Region and other EU bodies involved in the legislative process. Case law updates and archive to 1989.
  • ProQuest European Sources Online, http://www.knoweurope.net/search/goHome.do "ESO provides access to thousands of expertly selected, well known and less well known, websites, publications and documents from the EU and other international organisations, national governments, thinktanks, stakeholder organisations, working papers etc, plus full text articles from respected sources of news and analysis, bibliographic records to key academic textbooks and periodical articles, and features compiled by the ESO editorial team." Consolidates working paper sources as well.

EU Document Location Chart

(see also Ann Sweeney, "Essential European Union Law Websites," http://www.eurunion.org/infores/bestlawsites.htm )

Type of Document

Database Source of Document

Print Equivalent

EU as a Whole/EC



external (with other countries or organizations)



  • Europa web site
  • Westlaw EU-TREATIES
  • EurLex Europa
  • Westlaw EU-LEG


  • Eur-lex Europa
  • Westlaw EU-LEG
  • Lexis EC legislation 1979-current

Official Journal L Series

Treaty on European Union and others in volumes from EUR-OP official publications, Luxembourg


COM docs

(Green & White papers, proposed acts, amended proposals, assessment of common position, opinion on EP amendments)

  • Europa web site-Commission
  • Westlaw EU-ACTS from 1984 and OJCSERIES from 1990 cites and 1992 full text
  • Lexis EC legislation (above) and Preparatory Acts (asbstracts)

Separate documents in print or microfiche;

Official Journal C Series


Session documents




Debates and questions

  • Europa web site
  • Westlaw EU-ACTS (citations)


Euro-Parl on Europa


Lexis Parliamentary questions from 1964

Session Documents (print or microfiche)

Official Journal C Series


Official Journal of the European Communities Annex (debates)


Common Position


Joint text-conciliation

  • Europa web site (Council)
  • Westlaw EU-ACTS full text from 1995; citations from 1985
  • Lexis EC legislation (above)
  • Joint texts Europa web site and

Official Journal C Series

Courts of Justice and First Instance

Judgments, opinions of Advocates-General

Curia web site

Westlaw EU-CS

Reports of Cases before the Court

Common Market Law Reports

Committee of the Regions

Opinions and resolutions

Europa , http://www.cor.europa.eu/

Official Journal C Series

Economic & Social Committee


Europa http://www.eesc.europa.eu/index_en.asp .

Official Journal C Series

4. Periodical literature and other sources

ECLAS, the European Commission Libraries Catalogue, http://europa.eu.int/eclas/ indexes some full text articles through the catalogue link (click "Access ECLAS") and also provides an excellent quick search option for primary documents of the EU through clicking "Internet Resources"; the items under "defective products" as a search are hot linked back into the Europa database. As of this writing the library software is undergoing changes; this is still and doubtless will remain a very useful resource.

Periodical articles on specific legislation or cases can be located using the European Legal Journals Index, Hebdon Bridge, UK: Legal Information Resources, 1993- . (part of Legal Journals Index now on Westlaw). Another source for articles about EU law national European laws is the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, London: Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and AALL, 1964- . . The two standard Anglo- American periodicals indexes for law also index many journals focused on European Union law and many articles about the EU appear in law reviews published throughout the English-speaking legal world. Consult Index to Legal Periodicals. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1908- , and Current Law Index, Los Altos, CA: Information Access Corp., 1980- . The electronic version of the latter, Legal Resources Index (LRI) is on Westlaw and Lexis and separately as Legaltrak. Additional articles in a deep historical archive is now available through Hein Online. The RAVE database at the University of Düsseldorf, http://www.jura.uni-duesseldorf.de/rave/e/ee/ee2.htm , collects article citations on European law, including EU/EC law, though not all in English. There are links to electronic full text where possible. Many articles on European Union law may of course be located through Lexis and Westlaw as part of the legal journals databases of those services.

Implementing legislation at the national level

Please see the discussion above in section 2, "Legislation," p. 10 for Europa and Eur-lex access, which is the best and most official and now fully available as merged with CELEX. Lexis also provides a database of "National provisions implementing directives" from CELEX, which retrieves documents which list citations to the national legislation, often from the member country's official gazette. To keep track of national laws in many subject areas for broader Europe as well as implementations of EU legislation and case law, consult European Current Law, London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1992-. It is a monthly publication cumulated annually. Also helpful is Commercial Laws of Europe. London: European Law Centre, 1978- , also a monthly, cumulated annually, and it reprints full texts of commercial laws first in the vernacular and later in English. Another helpful source is another spin-off publication from the CCH European Union Law Reporter entitled Doing Business in Europe, 1972- , which contains articles updating developments in each member country, though it does not reprint the texts of laws. The databases listed under "Summary: document location and databases" above cite to national harmonizing and implementing legislation as well. Sources for foreign law such as Reynolds and Flores, Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World, www.foreignlawguide.com , NYU's Guide to Foreign and International Legal Databases, ed. Mirela Roznovschi, http://www.law.nyu.edu/library/foreign_intl/index.html , Finding Foreign Law Online When Going Global Lyonette Louis-Jacques, http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/global.html and information cited above under "Features of legislative research at the official Euorpa web site" and "Case law" would all prove useful in locating legislation, as would foreign law links at major portals such as Findlaw, www.findlaw.com and Social Science Information Gateway, www.sosig.ac.uk .

Overall statistics on the application of Community law in member states, by country or by sector, along with other data is posted on the official site at http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/eulaw/index_en.htm

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the future

At the European Council held at Nice in December, 2000, the European Union proclaimed its Charter of Fundamental Rights , http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l33501.htm .
Drafted by the European Council at its meeting in Cologne in 1999, the document affirms the commitment of the EU to common values in the areas of social policy and makes explicit the growing integration of human rights, minority rights, and anti-discrimination principles into European economic integration. To avoid confusion in terminology, therefore, it is important to remember that this charter addresses fundamental socialrights and not just the basic "fundamental freedoms" similarly denominated in the TEU such as, "freedom to provide services," "free movement of workers," and the like. The interrelationship among these rights is explored under "human rights" at the Europa site, http://europa.eu/pol/rights/index_en.htm.

Relationship to the Council of Europe and its European human rights system

The treaties establishing the European Union the Court of Justice for the obvious purpose of interpreting and enforcing the EC/EU treaties, and it is apparent that there could be no relief for alleged human rights violations by supranational Union institutions within the framework of a commercial and economic organization. The Court of Justice eventually declared over time that fundamental rights were part of their general jurisprudence and looked to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of the Council of Europe for guidance. As it relies more and more on ECHR case law for the fundamental rights aspects for its decision-making, and given that all member states of the EU have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and accepted the ECHR's jurisdiction, the two bodies of law are drawing closer together under common constitutional principles. This is acknowledged in the Charter of Fundamental Rights at many points, such as in Article 2 on the Right to Life which condemns the death penalty in recognition of the Protocol no. 6 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf to the European Convention on Human Rights http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/005.htm.

7. Citation issues and a "guide to the guides"

In addition to The Bluebook (Harvard 17th ed.), consult "A citation manual for European Community materials." Fordham International Law Journal, v. 19 (Feb. '96), p. 1317-34, for guidance in citing EU materials.

The Oxford Standard Citation of Legal Authorities http://www.competition-law.ox.ac.uk/published/oscola.shtml is also a good one to follow, as UK lawyers and researchers are citing materials as a member state and in accordance with standards for legal documents and briefs submitted in courts and to the Brussels offices. The formats used are subsumed under their general headings along with UK law, e.g., cases, legislation, etc. The full version in PDF may be found at http://denning.law.ox.ac.uk/published/oscola_v2_formatted.pdf

The following list of online guides to European Union legal and documentary research is a sampling of some of the author's favorite guides and portals for EU law, beginning with the excellent semi-official guide from the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States at the EurUnion site:

Ann Sweeney, "Essential European Union Law Websites," http://www.eurunion.org/infores/bestlawsites.htm

Bologna (Magagni), http://www2.spfo.unibo.it/spolfo/EULAW.htm (good outline but not updated)

NYU, http://www.law.nyu.edu/library/foreign_intl/european.html

Boston U , http://www.bu.edu/lawlibrary/research/int/guides/guide_eu.htm

Berkeley, http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/doemoff/govinfo/intl/gov_eu.html

SOSIG law portal, European Law, edited by the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and University of Bristol Law Library, http://www.sosig.ac.uk/roads/subject-listing/World-cat/eurlaw.html

Michigan, http://www.law.umich.edu/library/refres/resguides/pdfs/eu.pdf (primary material); http://www.law.umich.edu/library/refres/resguides/pdfs/eu-secondary.pdf (secondary materials)