Skip to Main Content

International Legal Research: Official Publication of EU Law

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

Official Journal

The Official Journal (OJ) is the official mechanism for publishing EU law. The OJ publishes both legislative (directives and regulations) and nonlegislative acts (declarations, resolutions, guidelines, notices, policy statements, recommendations, opinions and individual decisions).  It is divided into the following components:

  • L Series--Final Legislation & Treaties
  • C Series—Information & Notices, Preparatory Acts
  • S Series—Supplement Public Procurement notices

The OJ is available online at the Eur-Lex website. The OJ is published every business day, similar to the Federal Register in the U.S. or the official gazettes of civil law countries. Legislation is published in the O.J. chronologically. Citations include volume, page and date, written the European way. Electronic publication is very up to date. If you have the OJ citation, it is easy to retrieve the text by browsing the OJ by year.

EU legislation is not codified, which can be challenging for researchers. Lack of codification means that laws are not arranged by subject, like the U.S. Code, for example. EU laws are published chronologically like the session laws of other countries (i.e. U.S. Statutes at Large). Searching for laws chronologically means that the law may not reflect any later amendments. Thus, one has to read two separate documents: the initial enactment and the amendment, unless one can locate the consolidated text.

Regulations are numbered by Community initials/number/year. Directives, decisions, resolutions, and recommendations are numbered by year/number/Community initials.

(EEC) 222/89 –for regulations

92/38/EEC –for directives, decisions, resolutions & recommendations


Researching EU Law by Subject

Although EU legislation is not codified, it is still possible to browse the law by subject via the Summaries of EU Legislation website as displayed below.

The summaries are designed for a general audience. Nevertheless, they could be useful to a legal researcher who is interested in learning about the most important EU legislation in one of the 32 policy areas covered in these Summaries. Browsing is often a great alternative to trying to come up with a perfect keyword search, running multiple searches and wading through multiple search results.