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Law Library

International Law: European Union

Introduction to international legal research and resources.

European Union

There are 27 member countries in the European Union and 23 official languages. For more about finding legal information related to specific EU member states see the Foreign Law Guide.

The EU was founded in 1958 as the European Economic Community (EEC) in an effort to increase cooperation and avoid conflict between the 6 founding countries. In 1993 the name changed to the European Union to reflect an increasing spectrum of competencies.


The primary source of EU law are the Treaties, which provide the basis for all EU actions, and are binding on all member states.

EU legislation includes: regulations which are binding on all member states, directives which set a goal for all member states to achieve through national implementing measures, and decisions which are binding only on the addressee. Recommendations and opinions are not binding, but allow EU institutions to provide guidance on various issues.

Case Law

The Court of Justice of the European Union primarily handles cases referred to it by member states when clarification of a point of EU law is needed. Judgments of the Court of Justice are binding.

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