B1.6 Types of EU Law


The acts of the Council can take the form of regulations, directives, decisions, common actions or common positions, recommendations or opinions.


A regulation is a legislative act of the European Union which becomes immediately enforceable as law in all member states simultaneously. They are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures.

For example, the Endangered Species Regulation (which seeks to implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [CITES]) must be implemented by Member States as it is written. There is no leeway for a country to make its own decisions regarding implementation.


A directive is a legislative act of the European Union which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. Member states have a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. Directives can be adopted by means of a variety of legislative procedures depending on its subject matter.

For example, the European issued the WEEE Directive and each Member State was allowed to decide how to meet these requirements themselves. The UK chose to do this by writing and implementing the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Regulations 2006. Each Member State will have adopted its own way of compliance with the European Directive.


A decision is a law which is not of general application, but only applies to its particular addressee of the decision (be it Member States, companies or individuals).

Common uses of decisions involve the Commission ruling on proposed mergers, and day-to-day agricultural matters, such as setting standard prices for vegetables.

Recommendations or Opinions

Recommendations are without legal force but are negotiated and voted on according to the appropriate procedure. Even though they do not have legal force, they do have political weight.

The Recommendation is an instrument of indirect action aiming at preparation of legislation in Member States, differing from the Directive only by the absence of obligatory power.