Legal instruments - EU monitor

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Thursday, June 4, 2020
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Legal instruments

Source: Europa Nu.

The European Union has a number of legal instruments to its disposal. These are used to make or coordinate policies, to take measures and initiate programme's, to facilitate the implementation of policies and to issue advice to member states. Legal instruments are divided into two categories, binding and non-binding instruments. Legal instruments specifically in place for implementing EU acts are binding, but have been put in a final, third section.

Pending on the policy, measure, action or advice the EU wishes to pursue it can use one or more legal instruments. In some cases only specific instruments can be used. For each individual act a single instrument is selected.

1.

Binding legal instruments

  • Directive

    This legally binding act of the European Union establishes a set of objectives which all member states of the European Union must fulfil. The member states are required to implement directives. The member states are free to choose the manner they see fit to fulfil the required objectives.

  • Regulation

    This legally binding act of the European Union is directly applicable in all member states of the European Union. The regulation is similar to national legislation in terms of the impact and direct effect it generates. As such the regulation is the most pervasive of all the legal instruments of the EU.

  • Decision

    A decision is legally binding act in its entirety. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, a decision is binding for the EU as a whole. Decisions can address specific legal entities, in which case a decision is binding only to them. In its current form the decision was introduced with the Lisbon Treaty that came into force December 2009. It replaces various legal instruments introduced by earlier Treaties.

  • Budget

    The budget is a special type of decision to establish the annual budget of the European Union. It is a legally binding act. Over the course of a year the budget is amended to adapt and adjust to changing realities and financial breaks and setbacks.

  • International agreement

    International agreements are legally binding agreements between the European Union and third countries or international intergouvernmental organisations.

Apart from generic international agreements the European Union refers to various specific types of international agreements in the Treaties. These are:

  • Interinstitutional agreement

    This particular type of agreement is used to establish institutional arrangements between the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Commission. The purpose of the agreement is to increase efficiency and to clarify procedures in order to prevent or limit conflicts amongst the institutions. Interinstitutional agreement can be legally binding, but this is not required.

  • Treaty

    Treaties are legally binding agreements between countries on any given subject. Treaties are subject to international law.

  • Act

    An act is an instrument in writing to verify a legislative act. In the European Union acts are sometimes used as foundation for treaties i that might enter into the legislative process at a later date.

  • Protocol

    A protocol is annexed to a treaty i and stipulates detailed measures or actions on a specific part of that treaty. When signatory parties enter into a treaty they are also bound to any protocols governed by the treaty.

Binding legal instruments (out of use)

  • Decision

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. It, together with various other legal instruments, was replaced by a new version of the decision i. The old decision addressed specific legal entities (citizens, organisations or member states). The decision was only binding to those it addressed.

  • Decision 'sui generis'

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. The decision 'sui generis' was used when none of the other legal instruments proved suitable or was deemed appropriate, such as appointments, setting up committees and - in strictly legal sense - the budget i.

  • Joint action

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. The joint action constituted an operational action by the member states within the framework of the common foreign and security policy. The joint action sets out the objective, means and duration of the operational action.

  • Joint strategy

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. The joint strategy set out general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy. This would ensure unity and consistency in policies set out by the EU and its member states.

  • Joint position (JHA/CFSP)

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. BY means of the joint position the member states of the EU set out a policy guideline on a specific topic in either justice and home affairs or the common foreign and security policy areas.

  • Framework decision

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. A framework decision established objectives the member states had to fulfil. The member states were free to choose the manner to which they would implement the required objectives. The framework decision was exclusively used in the field of justice and home affairs.

  • Decision (JHA/PJC)

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. This particular decision was used to address policies in the field of justice and home affairs (JHA), or, from 2003 tot 2009, police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (PJC).

  • Agreement between member states

    This type of legally binding act is no longer used since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force December 2009. By means of this type of agreement the Member States expressed their cooperation in one of four policy areas the EU had very few competences, or none.

2.

Non-binding legal instruments

  • Recommendation

    Recommendations are non-binding acts by which the European Union means to achieve certain ends without imposing a mandatory legal framework. Recommendations may relate to both policies of the EU as well as individual member states.

  • Opinion

    Opinions are non-binding acts by which the European Union conveys an evaluation along with possible actions that can be taken with regard to a certain issue without imposing a mandatory legal framework. Opinions are usually given out to member states or when addressing a very specific situation.

  • Guideline

    Guidelines are non-binding acts that set out a framework for future acts in a policy area. These frameworks tend to be broad in scope and stated in general terms, and the 'future acts' often take the form of legally binding instruments. The EU issues guidelines in a limited number of policy areas.

  • Communication

    The European Commission issues a wide variety of communications. Communications may include policy evaluations, commentary or explanations of action-programmes or brief outlines on future policies or arrangements concerning details of current policy. Policy proposals will never be put forward by means of a communication.

  • Declaration

    By means of a declaration the institutions of the European Union relate their point of view on a specific topic. A declaration is not used to initiate legislative processes, nor is it used to publicise concrete programmes. The EU rarely uses declarations.

  • Green paper

    By means of a green paper the European Commission attempts to initiate a debate about possible future policies in a given area. Eventually, a green paper may serve as a basis for later legislative proposals.

  • Report

    Reports are issued by the European Commission to report and assess current policies. A report may provide a basis for policy development.

  • Working paper (Commission)

    Working papers or working documents by the European Commission cover a wide variety of affairs, but are always geared towards providing information on certain policies, programmes and legislative proposals or in support of current policies. Working papers issue neither policies nor actions.

3.

Legal instruments for implemention

  • Delegated decision

    This legally binding act of the European Union is directly applicable in all member states of the European Union. Delegated decisions can address specific legal entities, in which case it is binding only to them.

  • Delegated directive

    This legally binding act of the European Union establishes a set of objectives which all member states of the European Union must fulfil. The member states are free to choose the manner they see fit to fulfil the required objectives.

  • Delegated regulation

    This legally binding act of the European Union is directly applicable in all member states of the European Union. The delegated regulation is similar to national legislation in terms of the impact and direct effect it generates.

  • Implementing decision

    This legally binding act of the European Union is directly applicable in all member states of the EU. Implementing decisions can address specific legal entities, in which case it is binding only to them.

  • Implementing directive

    This legally binding act of the European Union establishes a set of objectives which all member states of the European Union must fulfil. The member states are free to choose the manner they see fit to fulfil the required objectives.

  • Implementing regulation

    This legally binding act of the European Union is directly applicable in all member states of the European Union, akin to national legislation. Implementing regulations take precedent over national legislation in case the two contradict one another.