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EU law and EU regulation


European flag on a blue background.

The European Union has specific rules and laws. Every action taken by it is founded on treaties that its members approve by a democratic vote.

EU’s laws are necessary for the achievement of the objectives of the EU treaties and to put EU policies into practice. There are two main types of EU law – primary and secondary, which we will discuss below.

Moreover, there are different types of legal acts - some are binding, while others are not. Some acts apply to all EU countries, and others to just several of them.

This article will summarize the types of EU law and regulation, define and briefly explain their main components.

Types of EU law

Each of the EU’s actions is described in treaties, which are binding agreements between EU member countries that define EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, and more.

Treaties are known in the EU as primary law, as they are the starting point.

Secondary legislation is the body of law that comes from the principles and objectives of the treaties. It includes regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions.

Types of EU acts

There are legislative and non-legislative acts.

Adoption of legislative acts happens when a legislative procedure laid out in the EU treaties (ordinary or special) is being followed.

On the other hand, non-legislative acts do not follow these procedures and can be adopted by EU institutions in accordance with specific rules. 

The EU can pass laws only in the specific areas where its members have authorised it to do so, via the EU treaties.

Do you need legal advice and assistance? Contact our experienced lawyers.

Types of EU legal acts

Now we will discuss the different types of EU legal acts, starting with the most important ones.

EU treaties

The treaties have several functions. They designate the objectives of the EU, the rules for its institutions, as well as how decisions are made, and the relationship between the EU and its member states. The EU treaties are sometimes amended to reform the EU institutions and to provide new areas of responsibility. They can also be revised to allow more European countries to join the EU.

All EU countries negotiate and agree on the treaties, which are then ratified by their parliaments, sometimes after a referendum.

EU regulations

There are so far approximately 12,000 EU regulations.

Regulations are binding legal acts that apply automatically and uniformly to all EU countries immediately when they enter into force, without the need to transpose them into national law. They are binding in their entirety on all EU countries.

An example is the adoption of a regulation on common safeguards on goods imported from non-EU countries. Another one is the regulation on flight delay compensation.

EU directives

Directives require EU countries to achieve a certain goal or result. However, they are free to choose how to implement EU directives (by devising their own laws, for example).

EU countries must adopt measures to incorporate directives into national law (transposition) in order to achieve the fixed objectives. National authorities are obliged to communicate the taken measures to the European Commission.

Transposition into national law is to take place by the deadline designated when the directive is adopted (this is generally within 2 years). If a country does not transpose a directive, the European Commission may initiate infringement proceedings.

An example of an EU directive is the EU consumer rights directive, which strengthens rights for consumers across the EU by eliminating hidden internet fees and costs, extending the period for consumer withdrawal from a sales contract, and more.

EU decisions

A decision is binding in its entirety. A decision which specifies those to whom it is addressed is binding only on them (for example, an EU country or an individual company) and is directly applicable.

An example is the Commission issuing a decision on the EU participating in the work of various counter-terrorism organisations. In this case, the decision was relevant only to these organisations.

EU recommendations

Recommendations allow the EU institutions to present their views and to offer a course of action without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed. Recommendations are not binding.

An example is the Commission issuing a recommendation that EU countries' law authorities improved their use of videoconferencing so that judicial services could improve their work across borders. This recommendation did not have any legal consequences.

EU opinions

A so-called 'opinion' is a tool that allows the EU institutions to make a statement, without imposing any legal obligation on its subject. Similarly to recommendations, opinions have no binding force.

They can be issued by the main EU institutions (Commission, Council, Parliament), the Committee of the Regions, and the European Economic and Social Committee.

While laws are being made, the committees offer opinions from their specific regional or economic and social viewpoint.

An example is the Committee of the Regions issuing an opinion on the clean air policy package for Europe.

EU delegated acts

Delegated acts are legally binding. They enable the European Commission to supplement or amend non‑essential points of EU legislative acts, for example, in order to define detailed measures.

The Commission adopts the delegated act and if the Parliament and Council have no objections, it enters into force.

EU implementing acts

Implementing acts are legally binding. They enable the European Commission – under the supervision of committees consisting of EU countries’ representatives – to set conditions that ensure that EU laws are applied uniformly.

Conclusion

Now you have a good idea of EU law and regulations. Those binding to all EU members are part of the international law, which aims to provide equal protection and guidelines throughout Europe.

However, with the UK leaving the European Union, they will cease to apply to the UK, and UK law will have to be thoroughly reviewed and amended. It is yet to be seen whether the desired free movement of European citizens and other important EU laws will change in the United Kingdom for the worse. The case of a country, and at that of such size, leaving the EU is unprecedented. We will follow the long and complicated process closely.


If you need expert legal advice regarding EU law and regulation, contact our experienced lawyers. We also provide consultations on the implementation of EU law in all business areas in Bulgaria, including the national legal acts set in force for that purpose.

 

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