Resource Centre > Glossary > EU law

Here is a mini-toolbox concerning EU law, its sources, legal force and lawmaking procedures:

The EU - European Union - is the notion introduced into the formal Treaties in November 1993. The Treaty of Maastricht created a three-pillar structure:

1. The First Pillar is the 'Community Pillar' and includes the European Community, the Euratom and the European Coal and Steel Community,

2. The Second Pillar is the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and

3. The Third Pillar used to include Justice and Home Affairs in their entirety - it has been revised (it is now Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters), and the matters of Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters for instance were moved into the First Pillar (Articles 61 - 69 EC Treaty - see link to our 'Legislation section' and to our Glossary for further information about judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters).  

Sources of EU Law:

Primary Sources: include the Treaties (most of all - the EC Treaty);

Secondary Sources: defined in Article 249 of the EC Treaty: Directives, Regulations, Decisions, and soft law measures: Recommendations and Opinions.


Legal force of EU Law:

According to the established jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, EU Law is supreme over national law, and under some conditions the source of EU law have direct effect (meaning - they can be enforced by individuals and companies against Member States or other individuals or companies).


Legislative procedures:

The process of lawmaking in the European Union involves three main institutions:

the Council of Ministers is the main legislative body,

the European Parliament co-decides on some legislative proposals or needs to be consulted on others, and

the European Commission proposes legislation and enforces it.  

These three institutions take part in the three main types of legislative procedures (these depend on the area of law concerned).

See 'Legislative Procedures' in our Glossary for a more detailed description of procedures which the EU uses for adopting legislation.