Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Procedure for passing laws in the EU

Out-Law Guide | 14 Feb 2007 | 2:57 pm | 2 min. read

EU law is generally divided into three different but interdependent types of legislation. It is produced by direct negotiations between the Member States and includes the Treaties that establish th...

EU law is generally divided into three different but interdependent types of legislation.

Primary legislation

It is produced by direct negotiations between the Member States and includes the Treaties that establish the European Union.

Secondary legislation

It is based on the Treaties and may take the form of Regulations, Directives, Decisions or Recommendations.

  • Regulations are binding in all EU Member States and are directly applicable. They do not need national implementing legislation.
  • Directives are also binding. However, they are different from Regulations because they only bind as to their objectives. They leave the choice of form and the means of implementation to national authorities. Both Regulations and Directives are addressed to all Member States.
  • Decisions can be addressed to any or all Member States, businesses or individuals, and are binding only for their recipients.
  • Recommendations are not binding.

The Council of the European Union

The Council is the European Union's main legislative body, and exercises its legislative power in co-decision with the European Parliament. The Council adopts community legislation and concludes international agreements on behalf of the EU. It also coordinates the common foreign and security policy, and adopts measures in the area of police and judicial cooperation.

Depending on the subject, the Council acts by a simple majority of its members, by a qualified majority or by unanimous decision.

Community legislation (Regulations, Directives, Decisions and Recommendations) must be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities in all the official EC languages.

The European Commission

The Commission initiates the legislative process by drafting proposals for Regulations and Directives. The Commission works in close cooperation with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

The Council may amend the Commission’s proposals by a qualified majority. In case of disagreement with the Commission, the amendments require unanimity. When revising its proposals, the Commission is also required to take amendments of the Parliament into consideration. The final drafts, together with the preliminary draft budget, are submitted to the Council.

If Directives or Regulations are not being respected by Member States or organisations, the Commission has the power to refer cases to the European Court of Justice. Finally, the Council supervises the implementation of competition rules and also controls mergers and acquisitions above certain size.

The European Parliament

The EP is fully full involved in the Community's legislative process. It is empowered to amend and even adopt legislation in co-decision or cooperation with the Council. It is also required to give an opinion before the Council can adopt a legislative proposal from the Commission. However, neither the Commission nor the Council are obliged to accept the EP’s opinions.

The  Maastricht Treaty has given the EP the authority to ask the Commission to put forward proposals for Regulations and Directives.

Once adopted, community law is directly applicable to the courts of Member States. Its right interpretation and implementation is safeguarded by the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance.

See: official site of the European Union