- Primary legislation
The constituting treaties are the basis of the European Union and are therefore called primary legislation. Paper versions of treaty texts can be found in various law books and in publications in European Documentation Centres. On the Internet, they can be found on the treaties page. The consolidated versions, including the changes introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam, can be traced via EURLEX. The texts (including changes) of constituting treaties and accession treaties are published in the L Series of the Official Journal.
- Secondary legislation
Secondary legislation is the legislation that is made by the institutions of the EU by virtue of the authority conferred upon them by the constituting treaties. Article 254 EC provides that regulations, directives, and decisions are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
- Second and third pillars
As a result of decision-making in the second and third pillars, the Council adopts various decisions that constitute legislation, e.g., joint actions and conventions. Texts of such decisions, that are legislative in character, are published in the L Series of the Official Journal.
The Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) is the official and most important source of EU legislation. The Official Journal is also an important source of information on the institutions and organs of the European Union. The Official Journal is published in all the official languages of the European Union and has the following series.
- L Series (Legislation)
The L Series contains primary sources of law and texts of decisions that fall under secondary legislation, i.e., regulations, directives, and decisions (the publication of which is mandatory on the basis of Art. 254 EC) as well as recommendations and opinions.
- C Series (Information and notices)
The C Series contains information on the institutions and organs of the EU, e.g., preparatory EU legislation (COM documents), notifications of cases pending before the Court of Justice, the Euro conversion rates, competition notices, minutes of the European Parliament sessions, statements of the ESC and the
Committee of the Regions, and Council resolutions and declarations.
- C E series
From the autumn of 1999 the text of legislative proposals no longer appear in the paper Official Journal C series but in the new electronic-only Official Journal C E series. This OJ C E also contains the proceedings of sittings of the European Parliament and the written questions and answers, as well
as common positions of the Council. The Journal C E series from 1999 appears in EURLEX and also appears in the Official Journal C and L series on CD-ROM.
- S Series (Supplement)
The European Union must be notified of all public contracts that exceed a particular value. These notifications are published in the Supplement Series of the Official Journal. The S Series can be browsed via the TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) web site.
Full reports (Proceedings) of the plenary sessions of the European Parliament.
- Indexes to the Official Journal
Alphabetical and systematic indexes to the L Series and part of the C Series of the Official Journal appear on a monthly and (cumulative) annual basis. The alphabetical index can be searched using key words. The systematic index (Methodological Tables) offers numerical overviews of regulations, directives, decisions, and judgements.
The L and C Series of the Official Journal have been published since 1952 and can usually be found in one of the European Documentation Centres. From 1998 onwards, these Series are also published on CD ROM, and are available via EURLEX
PRELEX, EURLEX, and CELEX
- Preparatory acts
Before the final text of a directive or a regulation is published in the Official Journal, a number of documents are published in the course of the decision-making process. Often these documents can give information on the background and on ideas underlying particular legislation. Preparatory acts of the Commission appear as COM documents. The stage of the decision-making process involving the Commission and other institutions can be traced via the PRELEX database. PRELEX refers to documents and provides links to the full texts of documents if they are incorporated in EURLEX, and also to press releases in Rapid and discussions in the EU Bulletin. PRELEX also contains information on COM documents that are not preparatory acts, e.g., White Papers and reports. The contents of PRELEX largely correspond with those of the Legislative Observatory made available on the site of the European Parliament. This database can be searched in French and English. The stage of the legislative procedure is monitored and, per stage, a brief summary is given of the content of the decision taken. There are links to Parliament documents. An advantage of the Observatory to PRELEX is that the first also indicates what the next step in the procedure is and when it can be expected.
EURLEX is an important source for finding legislation via the Internet. Texts of regulations, directives, etc., can be found on this web site under the heading "legislation". The texts contain an overview of all amendments and information on whether a consolidated version exists. Legislation is ordered on the basis of the principles of the Directory of Community legislation in force. The Directory consists of an alphabetical and an analytical index. The alphabetical index allows users to search with key words. The analytical register consists of 20 subject categories. The Directory on the Internet is updated on a monthly basis. There is also a biannual paper version of the Directory.
Via EURLEX, the most recent editions (from 1998 onwards) of the Official Journal can also be browsed.
The Office for Official Publications of the European Union has made available an online database, CELEX, which contains legislation. This database is not freely accessible. The European Documentation Centres do have access to the database.
On the basis of the contents of CELEX, commercial products have been marketed, e.g., the OJ Online database. This database contains full texts of legislation and other texts and offers extensive search possibilities.
- Implementation in national legislation
Member States must implement EC directives in their national legislation. There are a number of ways to find out how European legislation is being implemented in national legislation. The CELEX and OJ Online databases gives overviews of the national implementation measures with the texts of directives. However, these overviews are based on the information that the Commission receives from the Member States. This information is therefore not always complete, and, as stated above, the database is not freely accessible.
In the Netherlands, implementation of EC directives usually takes place through a change in the law or new legislation. Bills (Parliamentary Documents) and the Netherlands Bulletin of Acts and Decrees (from 1 January 1995) can be searched via the web site with official publications of Overheid.nl. In addition, the book Uitvoering EG-richtlijnen in Nederland, 1958-1997 by J.C. van Haersolte and V.P. Verkruissen (1998) offers a survey on the implementation of EC directives in Dutch legislation.
Every quarter, the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs sends an overview on the implementation of EC directives to the Dutch Second Chamber. This overview is published as a Parliamentary Document under the title
Uitvoering EG-richtlijnen (Parliamentary Document no. 21109).
Anticipating the coming EC regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regularly sends summaries of Commission proposals to the Second Chamber, also indicating what the expected effects will be for the national legislation. These summaries can be found in Kamerstukken (Parliamentary Documents) under the
title Nieuwe Commissievoorstellen en initiatieven van de lidstaten van de Europese unie (Parliamentary Document no. 22112).
Searching for references to legislation
The Bulletin of the European Union is a good source for references to official documents. This journal contains overviews of the activities of the Commission and of other community institutions. It is published 10 times a year, by the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, in the official languages. It discusses the activities per theme and gives reference to official documents. Supplements to the Bulletin appear irregularly; they usually deal with a topical subject. Since 1996, issues of the Bulletin, excluding the supplements, are published on the web site of the Commission. Issues can be searched with a search engine and hyperlinks are included to official texts (OJ, COM series, etc.), where electronic versions are available.