Why is the EU legislation important for me?

Accession of new member states to the European Union and to the EU Single Market require companies of these new member states to adapt their management and production methods to the “Acquis Communautaire” and to the Rules of the Single Market. Accordingly it is of grate importance to increase awareness of the organization on this issue in general, to help the companies to understand the legislation processes of the EU and the effect that these instruments can have on their business.
Acquis Preparation and Implementation is not only a matter for Government and Administration, but also for business, regional and local bodies and BROs.

The present information material and the other activities of ICTtrain, a project funded by the European Commission (www.icttrain.eu), will help the members of the BROs to adapt to the challenges of accession to the EU, and in particular to the changes arising at company level as a result of the necessity to adapt the Community acquis.


What is the acquis communautaire?

The acquis is constantly evolving and includes:

In order to become a Member State, countries will have to accept the acquis of the Union. In all areas of the acquis, the candidate countries must bring their institutions, management capacity and administrative and judicial systems up to EU standards, both at national and regional level. This will allow them to implement the acquis effectively upon accession and, where necessary, to be able to implement it effectively in good time before accession. At the general level, this requires a well-functioning and stable public administration built on an efficient and impartial civil service, and an independent and efficient judicial system.


What are the legislation procedures of the European Union?

European laws are passed by the EU institutions through a number of procedures. In nearly all cases the European Commission (the executive branch) has a monopoly on legislative initiative. In such situation the Commission sends draft legislation to the Council of the European Union and European Parliament for amendments and approval. The former body is composed of national government ministers and the latter by directly elected politicians.


Main legislative procedures

There are three main decision-making procedures currently in use.
These are codecision, assent and consultation.

1. Codecision procedure
The Codecision procedure is the main legislative procedure by which directives and regulations are adopted. The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament jointly adopt legislation based on a proposal by the European Commission. Both Parliament and Council — the latter acting by a qualified majority — are required to agree on an identical text before a proposal can be adopted, however Parliament is deemed to have adopted a proposed law if it fails to either reject or propose amendments to it, by an absolute majority, within three months of its adoption by the Council.

2. Assent procedure
Under this procedure, the Council can adopt legislation based on a proposal by the European Commission after obtaining the consent of Parliament. Thus Parliament has the legal power to accept or reject any proposal but no legal mechanism exists for proposing amendments. Parliament has however provided for conciliation committee and a procedure for giving interim reports where it can address its concerns to the Council and threaten to withhold its consent unless its concerns are met. The procedure is used for issues concerning Union membership.

3. Consultation procedure
The Consultation procedure is a legislative procedure rather than merely a mode of conducting consultation. Under the procedure the Council, acting either unanimously or by a qualified majority depending on the policy area concerned, can adopt legislation based on a proposal by the European Commission after consulting the European Parliament. While being required to consult Parliament on legislative proposals, the Council is not bound by Parliament’s position. Consultation is still used for legislation concerning for example the harmonisation of indirect taxation affecting the establishment and the functioning of the internal market; the approximation of laws which relate directly to the establishment and functioning of the common market; objectives of the Union which relate to the common market but which lack an explicit legal basis in the treaties; competition law etc.


Legal instruments affecting the business of the companies

The European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers are empowered by the Treaties to legislate on all matters within the EU’s competence. Secondary legislation is law made by an executive authority under powers given to them by primary legislation in order to implement and administer the requirements of that primary legislation. Examples of this secondary legislation are regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions. Secondary legislation also includes inter-institutional agreements, which are agreements made between European Union institutions clarifying their respective powers, especially in budgetary matters.

The classification of legislative acts varies among the First, Second and Third Pillars. In the case of the first pillar: Secondary legislation is classified based on to whom it is directed, and how it is to be implemented. Regulations and directives bind everyone, while decisions only affect the parties to whom they are addressed (which can be individuals, corporations, or member states). Regulations have direct effect, i.e. they are binding in and of themselves as part of national law, while directives require implementation by national legislation to be effective. However, states that fail or refuse to implement directives as part of national law can be fined by the European Court of Justice.

Directives and regulations can comprise of a mixture of maximum harmonization and minimum harmonization clauses, and can be enforced on either a home state or a host state basis. All EU legislation must be based on a specific Treaty article, which is referred to as the “legal basis” of the legislation.

EU law covers a broad range which is comparable to that of the legal systems of the Member States themselves. Both the provisions of the Treaties, and EU regulations are said to have “direct effect” horizontally. This means private citizens can rely on the rights granted to them (and the duties created for them) against one another. For instance, an air hostess could sue her airline employer for sexual discrimination. The other main legal instrument of the EU, “directives”, have direct effect, but only “vertically”. Private citizens may not sue one another on the basis of an EU directive, since these are addressed to the Member States. Directives allow some choice for Member States in the way they translate (or ‘transpose’) a directive into national law - usually this is done by passing one or more legislative acts. Once this has happened citizens may rely on the law that has been implemented. They may only sue the government “vertically” for failing to implement a directive correctly. An example of a directive is the Product liability Directive, which makes companies liable for dangerous and defective products that harm consumers.

The ‘secondary legislation’ can be defined as the totality of the legislative instruments adopted by the European institutions pursuant to the provisions of the treaties. Secondary legislation comprises the binding legal instruments (regulations, directives and decisions) and non-binding instruments (resolutions, opinions) provided for in the EC Treaty, together with a whole series of other instruments such as the institutions’ internal regulations and Community action programmes.


Binding legal instruments

Adopted by the Council in conjunction with the European Parliament or by the Commission alone, a regulation is a general measure that is binding in all its parts. Unlike directives, which are addressed to the Member States, and decisions, which are for specified recipients, regulations are addressed to everyone. A regulation is directly applicable, which means that it creates law which takes immediate effect in all the Member States in the same way as a national instrument, without any further action on the part of the national authorities.

Adopted by the Council in conjunction with the European Parliament or by the Commission alone, a directive is addressed to the Member States. Its main purpose is to align national legislation. A directive is binding on the Member States as to the result to be achieved but leaves them the choice of the form and method they adopt to realize the Community objectives within the framework of their internal legal order. If a directive has not been transposed into national legislation in a Member State, if it has been transposed incompletely or if there is a delay in transposing it, citizens can directly invoke the directive in question before the national courts.

Adopted either by the Council, by the Council in conjunction with the European Parliament or by the Commission, a decision is the instrument by which the Community institutions give a ruling on a particular matter. By means of a decision, the institutions can require a Member State or a citizen of the Union to take or refrain from taking a particular action, or confer rights or impose obligations on a Member State or a citizen. A decision is: an individual measure, and the persons to whom it is addressed must be specified individually, which distinguishes a decision from a regulation, binding in its entirety.


Non-binding legal instruments

A recommendation allows the institutions to make their views known and to suggest a line of action without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed (the Member States, other institutions, or in certain cases the citizens of the Union).

An opinion is an instrument that allows the institutions to make a statement in a non-binding fashion, in other words without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed. The aim is to set out an institution’s point of view on a question.


PreLex - the database on inter-institutional procedures

PreLex, the database on inter-institutional procedures follows the major stages of the decision- making process between the Commission and the other institutions:

PreLex follows all Commission proposals (legislative and budgetary dossiers, conclusions of international agreements) and communications from their transmission to the Council or the European Parliament.

Links allow users to access directly the electronic texts available (COM documents, Official Journal, Bulletin of the European Union, documents of the European Parliament, press releases, etc.) http://ec.europa.eu/prelex/apcnet.cfm


Consolidated legislation

Consolidation consists of incorporating into a single text, with no official authenticity, a basic instrument (a Treaty or piece of Community legislation) and the amendments and corrections subsequently made to it. A consolidated version of the Treaty establishing the European Community is available in EUR-Lex.

All the secondary legislation in force has been consolidated and can be consulted in EUR-Lex. These texts are intended to be used purely for documentation purposes, and the institutions do not accept any liability for their content.

On the basis of consolidated texts, the Commission may undertake a legislative consolidation or recasting. Legislative consolidation consists of getting the consolidated text, with a certain amount of redrafting, adopted through a legislative procedure. The new text is then published in the Official Journal as a legislative instrument and becomes authentic.

The Commission can also take the initiative of recasting a text where it considers it necessary to thoroughly overhaul the legislation in a particular field. In that case it launches a new legislative procedure.


EUR-Lex – The directory of EU legislation in force

EUR-Lex provides direct free access to European Union law. On the website of EUR-Lex visitor can consult the Official Journal of the European Union as well as the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/legis/20080901/index.htm

The legislation of the EU is divided into several fields. Member companies of the beneficiary associations working in the ICT field have to meet the requirements of different legislations like environment, safety etc. related directives/regulations.


ICT Acquis of the European Union

The ICT related legislation is summarized under the industrial policy and internal market chapter (number 13) of the acquis communautaire: 13.20.60 Information technology, telecommunications and data-processing. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/legis/20081001/chap132060.htm

The ICT related EU legislation in force contains all kind of legal instruments (binding and non-binding) that are currently influencing the management and production methods of the companies wishing to doing business in the EU.

The list for download below is as at 1 October 2008. Since the list might change we advice to visit EUR-Lex at the above address to be the most up-to-date.