EU Law on the Internet

Grace Hudson

European Documentation Centre, University of Bradford, UK

 

There is a great deal on the Internet relating to EU law, so I am going to concentrate in this short session on three key sources with brief mention of a couple of other additional resources. The three main sources I shall be looking at are:

Firstly let us look at CELEX which is located at http://europa.eu.int/celex/ where you will find details of costs and how to subscribe.

This is the most important, comprehensive and authoritative of the EU official databases. It covers the primary and secondary legislation of the EU - the founding, amending and accession treaties, together with the regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions; the case law, including the opinions of the Advocates General as well as the judgments; preparatory documents, parliamentary questions and details of national implementing measures. Much of the information is available in full text. Records date back to the 1950s for case law and to legislation in force in 1979 for secondary legislation. Over recent years the full text coverage has been extended and currency has also been improved.

With the move to the Web in 1997, the database now has a simple and user friendly interface which has made access to the data much easier. Behind that interface - which is surprisingly straightforward given the complexity of the data and the variety of the type of records contained in the database - there is a very powerful search facility which enables information to be identified by Official Journal or European Court Report issue number, by subject or by reference number. It is very hard to talk interestingly about a database without demonstrating it, so to illustrate what I am describing, I have captured some examples of search screens from CELEX which will give a clearer picture of the structure and content. However, in case the connections might prove too slow, please bear in mind that this is not a live demonstration.

Going to the address http://europa.eu.int/celex/ will take you to the login screen where you first select your language. It is important to note that this is a multilingual database available in all the official languages. Then clicking on ”Connect” will bring up a request for your username and password. Once into the database, the initial search screen allows access via a number of different routes through hyperlinks. It is possible to search (in the bottom left corner) by publication; (in the bottom right) by reference number, eg a directive number or case number; (in the top right) by type of record, eg legislation, case reports or preparatory documents; or (in the top left of the screen) across the whole of the database or by using the analytic structure of the Directory of Community Legislation in Force. Further screens allow you to specify search criteria more precisely, for example by setting dates or entering terms describing the topic.

Once the results have been found, they can be displayed in three different ways - a basic bibliographic list, text only, or the full record giving all the additional analytic information added to the document text - legislative procedure, date adopted, date of entry into force, legal base, references cited in the grounds of a judgment and so on. Hyperlinks will bring up documents related to the reference on screen, such as the legal base of a piece of legislation or later amendments to it. It is also possible to move directly to a section of the record, eg the national implementing measures to see how a directive has been brought into force in an individual member state.

Key sets of data currently missing from CELEX on the Web are graphics, tables and annexes. For example the illustration of the credit card style driving licence or tables of water or air pollution limits. This is an area where the second source of this talk, EUDOR, is of use.

EUDOR is an electronic archive and document delivery service. It can be searched free of charge, though the search engine is a very basic one - much less powerful and flexible than CELEX. However if you want to acquire any of the documents, there is a charge. Documents can be supplied by post, fax or by file transfer and are charged per page. In addition there is a charge for delivery if post or fax is used, but not for file transfer. EUDOR contains - most importantly from today’s point of view - the contents of the Official Journal L series from 1980, the Official Journal C series from 1990, Commission working documents (COM documents) from 1990, consolidated legislation and merger decisions. So, if for example the authoritative version of the text of a document is required in the form in which it was published or in a version complete with graphics or tables, the document can be obtained in minutes in paginated format by electronic transfer. For legal purposes the paginated format may be required as an authoritative source to cite and CELEX carries a disclaimer that the electronic version is not authoritative for these purposes. However steps are being taken to introduce legislation to allow electronic texts to be considered authoritative texts so this may change in the future.

For those who hold the paper copy of the Official Journal, this service is likely to be of less importance, unless pages are damaged, but for people who rely on electronic access to the contents of the OJ this is a valuable and speedy back-up service.

The third source I am going to look at is available completely free of charge. It is the EUR-Lex service which was launched in 1998 with the commitment to make EU law easily and widely accessible to the citizen. During the year it has developed and expanded to include a wider range of data. It now contains full text of:

Official Journal L & C for the last 45 days

Treaties

Legislation

- in force

- consolidated texts

Case-law - last c.2 years

The initial search screen brings together entry points for all this material, some of which was already available on the web, eg the Treaties and recent case law. Other areas, such as the legislation, are still being developed. The main feature at launch was access to the last 20 days of the Official Journal, now extended to the last 45 days. It is available on the day of publication.

From a calendar the appropriate date and series are selected. This brings up the contents page of that issue. Clicking on the page number of the item required will display the relevant pages on screen..

The area of EUR-Lex still under development is the section which aims to offer the full text of all secondary legislation in force. This is organised under the headings used in the analytic contents of the Directory of Legislation in Force. The text is reached by clicking through the tree of sub-sections to the relevant reference.

EUR-Lex does have a search engine, but again it can in no way be compared to the powerful CELEX search capability.

Depending on what your requirements are, these three sources can be used to gain access to EU law. If a detailed and precise search needs to be conducted then CELEX, though a paying database, is the best route. To obtain a paginated format copy of text, including graphics of tables, EUDOR is the electronic source which offers document delivery. For free current awareness or the text of a known reference, EUR-Lex provides a free service.

Finally I would like to highlight briefly a couple of other sources worth mentioning. I noted in passing that EUR-Lex provides links to recent case law. The link it is making is to the Court of Justice web site which gives a range of information about the workings of the Court but in particular hosts a database of recent case reports. It is quickly updated - often on the day a judgment is issued - so for important cases, if fast access to a copy of the report is required, this is the place to try and you can reach the site directly at: http://www.curia.eu.int.

I mentioned earlier that texts of merger decisions are available through the EUDOR document delivery service. They are also to be found in CELEX but for ones of the last year it is worth checking the web site of Directorate General IV (Competition) where they are made available for a short time free of charge. (http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg04/index_en.html/)

Last but not least, for an alternative source of information on the national implementing measures for EU legislation, summaries of EU legislation and policies, and bibliographic references of legislation as listed in the SCAD database, visit SCADplus at http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/.

This has been a whirlwind tour of the main sources of EU law on the Internet. I hope it has given an introduction to where the information can be found and the addresses of some sites worth exploring.

9/4/99