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Secondary law

Secondary law comes in two forms

  1. ‘Unilateral acts’ from the EU – the most important of which are regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions
  2. International agreements signed by the EU and between EU member states.

Of the five ‘unilateral acts’ regulations, directives and decisions are the most important as they all (in different ways) are legally binding and legal action can be taken against those who do not comply.

Read briefly about regulations, directives and decisions. After you have read about regulations you will need to click on the right hand side tabs to read about directives and decisions.

Important to remember. . .

  • Regulations are specific acts of EU law passed by the Council, Parliament and Commission under the consultation of co-decision procedures. Regulations are binding and do not need any domestic legislation for them to become law in member states.
  • Directives are different. While also passed through the same procedures as regulations, they are in essence instructions (or directions) for member states to adapt or create law to bring national law in line with EU law. They give member states an end-goal that they must reach. How they achieve the end-goal is up to the member state.

To summarise…

  • Regulations make EU law
  • Directives are instructions to make national law fall in line with EU law.
  • We will return to these measures when discuss the concepts of direct effect and direct applicability later in the section.
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