[The EUABC is an Internet dictionary providing concise explanations of terms used in the EU. EUABC is run by Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde]

Number of laws

There are now more than 30,000 legal acts in the EU. There are also 10,000 Court verdicts and 40,000 international standards, all of which must be respected by citizens and companies in the EU.

A decision by a Commission official in the name of and on behalf of the Commission is just as binding on member states as treaty articles. There is no hierarchy of laws in the EU. The number of more or less binding acts is over 80,000 if these different types of acts are counted together.



A directive binds member states to implement its content, leaving it to them to decide how. For example the EU chemical directive, REACH,  comes partly into force  on 1 July 2009, after the European elections.

Thus a member state is unable to ban a particular chemical on its own, not even if it believes it  causes cancer. Only the non-elected Commission can propose a change in the relevant EU legislation. Not a National Parliament … not the European Parliament …Not the voters.

Environmentalists want to forbid 267 chemicals. The Commission will only investigate 7 of them. The 260 unwanted  chemicals cannot be banned by voters in any member state by means of any election.

Even if these additives may cause allergies, cancer, diminished fertility, hormonal effects.

Another example: Bisphenol A is forbidden in Canada. Voters in Europe are unable to forbid it.

And even worse: The Commission legislated on its own to permit genetically modified maize to be used, even though the great majority of member states do not want it.


These are directly binding on all member states throughout the EU, without the need for being applied through national Governments or Parliaments. They are directly applicable and come legally into force from the date mentioned in them. It is illegal for a member state to change EU regulations when putting them into national laws.


These are binding  on those to whom they are addressed, but not on all EU members or citizens.


Recommendations are formally non-binding legal acts. A recommendation  from the Commission on the music industry has been used to change the market for copyright for authors and composers. The European Parliament was almost unanimous in opposing this Recommendation and asked the Commission to withdraw it. Again, it is the non-elected who decide. . . Not the elected.

Court Verdicts

An EU Court verdict binds everyone directly. If the Court establishes a new interpretation of a treaty article law the law can be changed … But only if a proposal to that effect comes from the non-elected Commission. If a court verdict makes an unwanted interpretation of the treaties, it can only be changed through an amendment of the treaties themselves –which must be agreed by all 27 governments and ratified  by all member states. Again voters are sidelined.

The 2007 Laval case limited the right of trade unions to embark on industrial action for higher salaries than the state minimum or prevailing applicable salaries where foreign workers in a host country were concerned. This was based on an interpretation of the treaty principle of free movement of workers. Therefore only a social protocol in a new treaty– as proposed by the European Trade Unions in ETUC – can change the law.  Citizen voters can change nothing in normal elections, whether for their national parliament or the European Parliament.


A standard laid down in the international Codex Alimentarius which has been agreed by the EU, is binding as EU law in all member states. If hormones in beef or additives in milk are permitted by the Codex,voters cannot  change this in elections. That can only be done if the Commission drafts a proposal and has it agreed in the Codex Alimentarius – or breaches its international obligations.

Regulations 8322
Directives 2042
Decisions 13543
Other acts 2653
Agreements with non-Member States or international organisations 1434
Agreements between Member States 104
Acts of bodies created by international agreements 2577
Recommendations 579
Communications 3332
White books 51
Green books 150
Verdicts from the EU Court of Justice 3 10337
CEN ( European Committee for Standardization) 4 13425
CENELEC ( European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) 5 21343
ETSI ( European Telecommunications Standards Institute) 6 5287
CODEX ALIMENTARIUS ( WHO&FAO food standards system) 7 4783

[1] Eur-lex search results as of May 15, 2009 (simple search – legislation; acts in force & acts adopted, [2] Pre-lex search results as of 7. May, 2009; except for recommendations: Eur-lex.

[3] Eur-lex search results as of May 7, 2009.

[4] CEN web page: CEN in figures, Data refers until end of March 2009.

[5] CENELEC Annual report 2007, Page 56,……E526/0/CENELECRapport2007.pdf. Data refers until end of 2007.

[6] ETSI Annual report 2008, published April 2009, Page 17,……nnual_Report_2008_english.pdf. Data refers until end of 2008.

[7] WHO&FAO (2006): Understanding the Codex Alimentarius, third edition, Page 11, Data refers until end of July 2006.


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