Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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Europe and the law

5.3 EU secondary legislation

Law made by the EU institutions in exercising the powers conferred on them by the treaties is referred to as secondary legislation. This legislation includes:

  • regulations

  • directives

  • decisions

  • recommendations

  • opinions.

Another EU institution often required to contribute to the EU law-making process is the European Court of Justice. This has two main functions:

  • it is responsible for directly applying the EU law in certain types of cases

  • it has general responsibility for interpreting the provisions of EU law and ensuring that the application of the law is consistent and uniform.

Invested with such functions, the ECJ inevitably ends up making what is called ‘judicial law’, that is, law which has not been passed through the usual legislative channels but which has been distilled by the court using fairly wide rules of legal interpretation.

Regulations, directives and decisions are defined in Article 249 EC.


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