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.


Directive in detail

Area of application

Directives are not directly applicable due to the fact that they have to be transposed into national legislation. Each individual member states chooses the 'form and method' to achieve the objectives set out in a directive. The directive is meant to bridge the divide between the required uniformity of legislation at the EU level whilst at the same time paying heed to the diversity of national systems. Directives are not meant to create single, uniform rules at the EU-level but rather to have the member states strive for common results.

Directives are generally used to set up general policies. They are used in nearly every policy area of the EU.

To ensure the objectives set out in a directive are fulfilled member states are required to transpose directives into national legislation before a specified date. Failing to transpose directives or failure to fulfil the objectives set in a directive member states may be brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Directives are sometimes used to set out general principles in a certain policy area. They may also be used to set out very broad policies. Such directives are referred to as framework directives.

A directive is not directly applicable to legal persons. According to the principle of direct application should a member state fail to implement a directive legal persons can take recourse to clauses from a directive in cases where such clauses conflict with national regulations, provided the clauses in the directive are sufficiently specific in nature.

Adopting directives

A directive can be adopted through a number of decision-making procedures used in the European Union. A directive can stipulate that some of the detailed measures required to fulfil the set objectives of a directive and/or the conditions required to reach a minimum level of uniformity in implementing a directive are to be adopted later. There are strict rules and limitations as to what parts of a directive may be adopted later.


Legal framework

The directive is based on the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TfEU).

  • instrument: part six TfEU title 1 chapter 2 section 1 art. 288
  • procedure to adopt: part six TfEU title 1 chapter 2 section 1 art. 289


Further information