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EU Law

The main forms of secondary legislation are directives, regulations and decisions, which are binding legal instruments; other, non-binding forms include resolutions and opinions.

Further information about types of EU legislation may be found in the European Commission's ABC of EU Law (Publications Office, 2017), from page 90.

All secondary legislation is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Until 1 July 2013, the print edition of the Official Journal (OJ) was the authentic source of secondary legislation, but from 1 July 2013 onwards the authentic source is the online version, which is available on the EUR-Lex website.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and settles legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions.

The CJEU is divided into two courts:

  • The Court of Justice: established in 1952, heard its first case in 1954; often known as the 'European Court of Justice' (ECJ), but this is not its formal title. Not to be confused with the European Court of Human Rights, which is a court of the Council of Europe, not the EU. This court deals with requests for preliminary rulings from national courts, certain actions for annulment and appeals.
  • The General Court: established in 1988 as the 'Court of First Instance' (CFI) and heard its first case in 1989; was renamed 'General Court' in 2009. This court rules on actions for annulment brought by individuals, companies and, in some cases, EU governments. In practice, this means that this court deals mainly with competition law, State aid, trade, agriculture, trade marks.

When an EU case is first registered it is given a reference consisting of an alphabetic prefix, a serial number and the year of registration. Entering the case number is the quickest way to find a case on the Curia or EUR-Lex websites. Since 1989, EU cases have been numbered according to whether they were registered at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) or the General Court (GC), and given the prefix C– (for ECJ cases) or T– (for GC cases).

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