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International Legal Research: EU Legislative Process

This Guide covers essential print and electronic resources for researching international and foreign law.

Legislative Process





In the EU system, the term "preparatory act" is used to refer to proposed legislation (as opposed to final legislation or act). The broader term "preparatory documents" means all documents corresponding to the various stages of the legislative or budgetary process. They include Commission legislative proposals, Council common positions, legislative and budgetary resolutions and initiatives of the European Parliament, and opinions of the European Economic and Social Committee and of the Committee of the Regions, etc.

If you wish to research the history of EU legislation or track pending legislation, it is helpful to have some understanding of the EU legislative process. There are four ways proposed legislation may become law in the EU: co-decision (COD); Cooperation (SYN); Assent; and Consulation (CNS).

Under the Lisbon Treaty, co-decision has become the "ordinary legislative procedure". Most EU legislation is adopted by the co-decision procedure. The co-decision procedure requires that legislation be adopted by both the European Parliament and Council.

An excellent step by step explanation of the co-decision process is available at the EU Commission website. If you know the law making procedure, you can identify relevant documents. The Commission initiates legislation known as COM documents. Such documents include White Papers. If the legislation is passed via the co-decision procedure, you might look for the following documents: Parliamentary amendments, Common Position, Commission Opinion and Joint text.
The Pre-Lex website follows the major stages of the decision making process between the Commission and other EU institutions. Pre-Lex follows all Commission proposals and communications from their transmission to the Council or the European Parliament. One can also track legislation through the EU Parliament via the Legislative Observatory (OEIL) website. In addition, Preparatory Acts are accessible via the Eur-Lex Advanced Search template