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Law

Information to help you carry out legal research

Law reports

The Court of Justice ensures that Community law is uniformly applied throughout the EU in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties.  Do not confuse this with the European Court of Human Rights which is part of the Council of Europe, nor with the International Court of Justice which is a United Nations court.  The most important documents include:

European Communities.  Court of Justice.  Reports of cases before the Court       SV6.9

Commercial series of law reports also cover Court of Justice cases, including:

Common Market law reports       SV6.9

Treaties (primary legislation)

The treaties are the basis of the European Union - legal agreements between the member states. They are the EU's primary legislative texts, setting out the aims of the Union and establishing the structures, powers and processes through which it can pursue them.

The main text of a treaty may be supplemented by protocols and declarations: a protocol is legally binding on the member states to which it applies; a declaration has no legal force.

Location of printed treaties: Classmark QZ1

You can read the Treaties online in the legislation area of the EU website

Law reports online

Reports form the Court of Justice are available online:

Secondary legislation

Secondary legislation is created by the institutions and forms the working basis of community law.  It includes regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions. 

Definitions of the main instruments of secondary legislation, according to Article 249 of the Treaty of Rome (EC Treaty):

  • Regulation is of "general application". It is "binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States".
  • Directive is "binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods". In the United Kingdom directives are implemented by an act of parliament, or more commonly, a statutory instrument.
  • Decision is "binding in its entirety upon those to whom it is addressed".
  • Recommendation has "no binding force".
  • Opinion has "no binding force".

Secondary legislation is available on the Eurlex database, and also on Westlaw and LexisLibrary.

EU legal materials online

Legal materials are available online from LexisLibrary, Westlaw and Eur-Lex, the EU's own website.