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European Union Legal Research

Primary Sources of Law

Primary sources of European Union law consist of the founding (or constitutive) treaties, the treaties between Member States, and the treaties between the EU and third parties. Other sources of law are secondary legislation (regulations, directives, decisions) and opinions of the Court of Justice.


Founding Treaties

The founding treaties are:

Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (1951)

Treaty Establishing European Economic Community (1957)

Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (1957)

Treaty on European Union (1992)

The full texts of these treaties are available on EUR-LEX and in the following sources: 

Encyclopedia of European Union LawConstitutional Texts. (formerly Encyclopedia of European Community Law). KJE 926. E53x.

European Union Law Reporter (formerly Common Market Law Reporter). KJE 949.E96.

LexisNexis: Legal > Find Laws by Country or Region > Foreign Laws & Legal Sources > European Union > Treaties & Intl Agreements

WestlawNext: Home > International Materials > European Union > European Union Legislation > European Union Legislation: Treaties

Other EU Treaties

The EU enters into numerous other treaties in addition to the founding treaties.  These other treaties can be found in the databases listed above, as well as in the EUR-LEX database.

Secondary Legislation

The three types of secondary legislation:

Regulations are adopted by the Council of the European Union upon a proposal from the Commission. Regulations have general effect and are directly applicable in all of the Member States.

Directives are adopted by the Council of the European Union upon a proposal from the Commission. Directives are addressed to the Member States and are binding  - Member States may choose the form and methods of implementation. The process of implementation is called harmonization.

Decisions are issued by the Council or Commission and are binding on the governments, companies, or individuals addressed.

Finding Secondary Legislation

Secondary legislation is published in the daily Official Journal (OJ), the official gazette of the European Union. The online version of the OJ is available 1952 - date on EUR-LEX.  It is also available on Lexis Advance > International > European Union > European Union Legislation and Regulations. 

It is available in print the Law Library:

  • Hardcopy (1952-1982) KJE 908
  • OJ Special Edition, in English, (1952-1973) KJE 908
  • Microfiche (1982-2010) Microfiche JN15.O362

The OJ is divided into the following series and parts.

  • The L Series contains adopted legislation including directives and regulations adopted by the Commission and Council, and other binding acts.
  • The C Series is the "Information and Notices" section of the OJ containing non-binding decisions and resolutions of the institutions, texts of proposed legislation, Minutes of the Parliament, Commission and Council replies to written questions, opinions of the Economic and Social Committee, and notices of Court decisions.

Citations to the Secondary Legislation

You must know what type of legal act you have since directives, commission decisions and recommendations can have the same numerical citation. For example, 93/13 (EC) could be a directive or a decision.


Official Journal:

1993 OJ L 95/29

1993 = Year 
L95 = Issue in L Series 
29 = page # in Issue L95


(EC) 2913/92

EC = Community initials 
2913 = number of regulation numbered consecutively 
92 = year

Other legal acts:

93/13 (EC) 

93 = year 
13 = number of decision or directive 
EC = Community initial


Documents published in the L series of the OJ from 1 January 2015 will be numbered by the Publications
Office of the European Union in the following standardised way:

(domain) YYYY/N

The domain — (EU), (Euratom), (EU, Euratom), (CFSP) — is placed at the beginning of the number in brackets. YYYY represents the year of publication and always comprises four digits. N represents the sequential number of the document for a given year, regardless of the domain and the type of document, and is composed of as many digits as necessary.

Other Legislative Documents

Debates of the European Parliament. 

European Parliament, Working Documents.  Older documents in Microfiche KJE 910.3. E97x.

EUROPARL Homepage.

Commission of the European Communities, Documents. Also known as COM documents. Proposals and amendments issued by Commission, including explanatory memorandum. Numbered sequentially each year and referred by number and date. Citation format: COM (90) 322 final. 1985-2002 Microfiche KJE 5380. A5 C66x. Index to COM Documents (hardcopy) Micro Room KJE 5380. A4 I53x.

See also Official Documents of the EU; you can see documents organized by the institution that issued them. 

Reference to many of these documents can be found in the OJ C series, The Bulletin of the European Union, and other sources.


How to Find Case Law

Reports of Cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance  (also called European Court Reports (ECR)) is the official case reporter. KJE 924.5. R472. Delays of two to three years in publication are common.  These cases are also available on the Court's website, which also provides a Digest of Case Law that lists cases in a subject classification. The EUR-LEX website also provides access to cases and permits full text key word searches. 

Selected cases are also found in the European Union Law Reporter (CCH) (formerly Common Market Reporter). KJE949.E96.  Cases can be found by  under "Finding Lists" tab. 

WestlawNext includes EU cases:  Home > International Materials > European Union > European Union Cases

LexisNexis includes EU cases: Legal > Find Laws by Country or Region > Foreign Laws & Legal Sources > European Union > Caselaw

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