Thursday, 28 May 2009

Eur-Lex: Access to European Union law

Eur-Lex, the legal portal of the European Union, offers an incredible amount of serious information about the EU. The centerpiece is the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where the legislation and other official acts are published.

While press releases, multimedia presentations and news reporting cover the instant information needs, the published acts and proposals are the primary sources for practitioners and serious students of European Union affairs.

Here is how Eur-Lex describes the available documentation:

About EUR-Lex

EUR-Lex provides free access to European Union law and other documents considered to be public. The website is available in 23 official languages of the European Union; choose your preferred language from the language bar at the top of the homepage.
The contents of the site amount to some 3 600 000 documents with texts dating back to 1951. The database is updated daily and every year around 15 000 documents are added.

EUR-Lex offers:

• daily editions of the Official Journal of the European Union online,
• simple search, advanced search and browsing options,
• the possibility to display and/or download documents (PDF, HTML, DOC, TIFF),
• analytical metadata for each document.

I would like to access the Official Journal of the European Union

The Official Journal of the European Union is the principal source of EUR-Lex content and it is published in the early morning after every working day. It consists of two series: L (Legislation) and C (Information and Notices). E and A are Official Journals published as annexes to the C series (e.g. C 307 A, C 309 E).

Latest issues are accessible from the homepage; click on the links in the upper right-hand corner, just under the language bar.

Previous issues can be found by clicking on the OFFICIAL JOURNAL link on top of the left-hand menu. You can find an issue of the Official Journal by browsing or by searching. All issues from 1998 onwards are available in PDF. To access texts published before 1998, use the SIMPLE SEARCH – Search by publication reference (Official Journal).

I would like to search for a document

There are two search interfaces in EUR-Lex; SIMPLE SEARCH and ADVANCED SEARCH. While advanced search provides a fuller range of search and display features, simple search will accommodate most users’ requirements.

You have a wide range of search options; search by search terms, search by date, search by author, search by natural number, etc.

Another option is to browse our collections and directories; choose from treaties, international agreements, legislation in force, preparatory acts, case-law and parliamentary questions. Each of the aforementioned sectors offers a browsing feature, such as the Directory of Community legislation in force.

What do I do with my search result?

You have direct access to all the documents in your list of search results; just click on your preferred format. You can also check which languages and formats are available, display complementary data, sort or refine your search result to get more relevant documents (find these options on the yellow bar and/or the search box). You can review and/or combine the queries made in one session by clicking on Search history.

To get more information on a document follow the link ‘bibliographic notice’ (example). The notice is a display of metadata (author, dates, indexes, form, related documents, etc.) which provides insight into each document and shows relationships between documents. For bilingual display of a document follow the link Bibliographic notice + Text (bilingual display).

EUR-Lex also offers consolidated versions of documents (where available). These versions are intended for documentation purposes only and have no legal value. Find them in the bibliographic notice or by browsing the Directory of Community legislation in force.

What else can I do?

You can read about EU law, the legislative procedures and EU institutions. You can consult the selection of new documents on the homepage or consult our thematic files.

EUR-Lex also offers links to the budget of the European Union, the institutions’ registers and other documentation and information sources.

New developments are announced in our Newsletter.

Ralf Grahn