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European Union Legal Research

EU Institutions and Documents

A good place to look for information on the institutions of the EU is at EU Institutions and Other Bodies.  See also Guide to the EU Institutions (Rohan Bolton ed., 2003). Wilson Library JN27 .G85.


The Commission  has both executive and administrative roles. The Commission is organized into departments, called Directorate Generals, responsible for drafting legislation and overseeing its implementation. In its executive capacity it acts as the "government" in a Parliamentary system by initiating legislation and submitting proposals to the Council of the European Union. The Commission also oversees Member States' implementation of directives, and enforces regulations.  

Documents:  For Commission proposals transmitted to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, see 'COM' documents for explanatory memorandum and proposed legislative text; and see C series (OJ) for proposed legislative text only.  To track EU legislative proposals, see Eur-Lex.

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union, representing the Member States, acts on Commission proposals and is the final legislative authority. The Council may request that certain legislation be proposed and may conduct any necessary studies to help achieve Treaties' goals. The Council also has treaty-making power.

Documents:  Little public dissemination of documents.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is composed of Representatives directly elected by the populations of the Member States. In most cases the Council is required to submit proposed legislation to the European Parliament for comment. The Parliament acts as a forum for debate and questioning of the Council and Commission. It has obtained some veto and amendment powers in recent years.  The appropriate committee of the Parliament scrutinizes the proposed legislation and a rapporteur is selected to draft a report and opinion for consideration at the plenary meeting.  

Documents: For first or second reading of Commission proposal, see Reports, which generally consists of three parts: 1) record of Committee's action, 2) explanatory memorandum providing background on issue and reason's for Committee's recommendation, and 3) text of the draft opinion. Minutes of plenary session considering rapporteur's report are printed in the C series (OJ.) Debates of the plenary sessions of Parliament are in the Annex of the (OJ.)

Economic and Social Committee

The Economic and Social Committee, representing industry, labor and consumers, is composed of members appointed by the Member States. During the legislative process, the Council of Ministers may be required to or may decide to seek the opinion of the Committee.  

Documents:  For texts of Economic and Social Committee, see C series (OJ), and Opinions and Reports, Economic and Social Committee.

European Court of Justice

The Court of Justice of the European Union is the highest legal authority in the EU. The Court is empowered to decide cases involving interpretation and application of the Treaties. EU institutions and Member States may appeal and take each other to court for failure to implement or properly apply the Treaties and derived legislation, i.e., the Commission will file a case against a Member State for not implementing a directive. Legal or natural persons may appeal to the Court against a decision addressed to him or any regulation or decision which is of direct concern. The Court will also issue prejudicial decisions in cases referred to it by national courts when questions of Community law are involved. The Court is assisted by advocates-generals, who present a reasoned and independent opinion of the issue of law in the case.

Other Courts

The General Court deals with cases brought forward by private individuals, companies and some organizations, and cases relating to competition law. The EU Civil Service Tribunal rules on disputes between the European Union and its staff.

Documents: Text of opinions from these courts  are officially available on the Courts' website

European Union Documents Generally

The EUROPA website provides links to official documents organized by the institution that issued them.  


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