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European Union Law

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrines certain political, social, and economic rights for EU citizens and residents. It was proclaimed by the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission at the European Council meeting in Nice on 7 December 2000.

For further information about the Charter, see this description from the European Parliament website.

European Parliament

European Parliament

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The European Union Legislative Framework

The European Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the EU but it does not exercise legislative functions. 

There are 3 main institutions involved in EU legislation:

  • the European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them;
  • the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of the individual member countries. The Presidency of the Council is shared by the member states on a rotating basis.
  • the European Commission, which represents the interests of the Union as a whole.

Together, these three institutions produce through the 'Ordinary Legislative Procedure' the policies and laws that apply throughout the EU. Generally, it is the European Commission that proposes new laws and it is the European Parliament and Council that adopt them. The Member States and the Commission then implement them, and the Commission ensures that the laws are properly applied and implemented.

See Europa's How EU Decisions are Made for information about the legislative process, including drafting, review and adoption.

To follow the life cycle of a legislative proposal from when it is launched until the final law is adopted, see Eur-Lex's Legislative Procedures database, which includes a timeline that provides a visual representation of the procedure. From the timeline, you can access detailed information about each institution's decisions and how they were taken, the services and departments involved, the legal basis of the act etc.

PreLex on Eur-Lex is the database on inter-institutional procedures which follows the major stages of the decision-making process between the Commission and the other institutions.

See more on legislative procedures on Eur-Lex.

For an excellent overview of the the EU legislative process, including a flowchart of the process, see pages 5-8 of How the European Union works: your guide to the EU Institutions (free to download from the online EU Bookshop).

Finding EU Legislation

Eur-Lex (open access) includes:

  • Legislation - including binding legal instruments (regulations, directives and decisions), non-binding instruments (resolutions, opinions) and other instruments (EU institutions' internal regulations, EU action programmes, etc.)

  • Consolidated Acts - consolidation are the integration in a legal act of its successive amendments and corrigenda. Several legal texts published in different issues of the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) are combined in one easy-to-read document.

  • EU Preparatory Acts - Documents used to prepare EU legislation, produced during the various stages of the legislative and budgetary process.

  • Parliamentary Questions - Questions by MEPs to the Commission and Council

  • The Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) - the main source of EUR-Lex content. It is published every day from Tuesday to Saturday. There are 2 series:

    • L (legislation)

    • C (information and notices)

  • Summaries of EU Legislation - intended for a general, non-specialised audience. The summaries cover 32 topics corresponding to the activities of the European Union.

The European e-Justice Portal is a useful research tool providing information on justice systems - it is designed for the layperson, as well as lawyers, litigants and researchers. It links to EUmember state national and international legislation.

CELEX is available on JUSTIS (UniMelb staff & student access) -  from the JUSTIS homepage, click on Index and Contents>>EU>>CELEX. CELEX includes treaties, external agreements, secondary legislation, supplementary legislation, proposed legislation, national implementation and parliamentary questions.