EU Legislation and Policy
EU Legislative Terms
Policies, Green Papers, Directives and Reports
In order to implement Policy the EU uses a range of legal instruments:
- A Green Paper is a discussion papers published by the Commission on a specific policy area. It is a document for interested parties - organisations and individuals - who are invited to participate in a process of consultation and debate. In some cases it provides an impetus for subsequent legislation.
- A White Paper is a document containing proposals for Community action in a specific area. It sometimes follows a green paper published to launch a consultation process at European level. While a green paper sets out a range of ideas presented for public discussion and debate, a white paper contains an official set of proposals in specific policy areas and is used as a vehicle for their development.
- Communications usually set out a Commission action plan (and may include concrete proposals for legislation).
- A Directive is a legislative act of the European Union which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. Directives normally leave member states with a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. When adopted, directives give member states a timetable for the implementation of the intended outcome. Occasionally the laws of a member state may already comply with this outcome and the state involved would only be required to keep their laws in place. But more commonly member states are required to make changes to their laws - commonly referred to as transposition - in order for the directive to be implemented correctly.
- A Recommendation is similar in structure to a Directive but does not hold any legal obligation.
- European Union Regulations are legal instruments which become immediately enforceable as law in all member states at the same time.
- A Decision (by either the European Council or Commission) applies specifically to one or more member states and is directly binding.
Current Issues by Topic
Here we list issues which have recently appeared in any of the formats described above.
You will find all the information on the current EU budget and what's planned for the 2014-20 period at The EU budget, a guide.
Single Market Act
New rules for the EU's single market will make it easier to live and do business anywhere in Europe. The EU was set up so that people, goods, services and capital can move freely throughout the European Union. But gaps remain between the rules and what businesses and people still face when they operate or move across borders. The commission has unveiled further actions to help ensure the single market continues to improve people's lives and make the EU economy more competitive.
The Single Market Act will simplify life for small businesses, which make up more than 99% of Europe's companies and help fix the problems faced by people when they travel, study, work, get married, buy a house or car in another EU country.
The 50 actions on the single market include:
- giving small businesses easier access to finance, simplifying accounting rules and improving access to public contracts
- fostering social entrepreneurship to improve access to food, housing, health care, jobs and banking services
- ensuring copyright holders, including artists, can sell their work throughout the EU to boost online commerce
- cutting red tape in recognising all professional qualifications throughout the EU by introducing professional I.D. cards.
Starting a business in the EU
Want to sell wine in France? Want to start a hairdressers in Hungary? The EU has published a list of each EU countries' 'Point of Single Contact' which will allow you to complete online all the forms you need to start a services business in an EU country. The UK Point of Service contact.
If you go by boat, train or plane, EU rules will provide protection if something goes wrong. The European Parliament has approved new rules to reimburse or reroute boat passengers if a ferry is more than 90 minutes late, which came into force in 2012, and the European Commission has just launched a campaign about your rights when travelling by plane or train.
Check out your Passenger Rights.
Enlargement of the EU
Croatia became the 28th member of the EU in July 2013.
Negotiations for membership are taking place with Iceland and Turkey. Other countries that have put themselves forward as candidates are Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Potential members are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosova. Further details are available on the EU - Enlargement - Check Current Status page.
Energy efficiency - buildings and labelling
Energy Efficiency - MEPs approved the EU's new energy efficiency legislation for buildings, which will help consumers to cut their energy bills and the EU as a whole to hit its climate change target of using 20% less energy in ten years' time. Member States will have to alter their building codes so that all new buildings constructed from the end of 2020 meet high energy-saving standards. Existing buildings will have to be upgraded where possible.
To keep abreast of developments and news about EU Energy matters, including the Energy Efficiency Directive, buildings, products, office equipment and labelling of tyres, visit the European Commission's Energy Efficiency page.
Bio-waste is defined as biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises, and comparable waste from food processing plants.
The Commission adopted a resolution on the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy Biodiversity strategy in April 2012. View the European Commission's latest news on Biodiversity.
EU leaders have made the conditional commitment to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission target reduction for 2020 from 20% to 30% if other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions. The Scottish Climate Change Act aims at reducing CO2 emissions by 42% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050, and constitutes the most ambitious emissions reduction plan in the world.
Cross-border health care
This directive was a contentious issue in the European Parliament. EU countries have until 25 October 2013 to pass their own laws implementing the Directive.
Further information is available in Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013 (130 KB PDF) Opens in a new window .
The recommendation on pensioners is for the member state of residence to reimburse care for pensioners.
- The Treaty is now in force.
It gives national parliaments a role in the development of EU law and a right to raise objections to Commission proposals if "subsidiarity" is breached.
(Subsidiarity is the principle whereby the EU does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level).
- National parliaments will be able to scrutinise and comment on proposed EU legislation.
- Citizens will be able to call for policy proposals to be considered if 1m sign a petition.
- The treaty will simplify working methods and voting rules. There will be majority voting by 2014 with decisions passed by 55% of states representing 65% of the EU population.
- It will extend the remit of EU policy areas.
- The Treaty of Lisbon will give Europe a clear voice in relations with its partners worldwide and the newly appointed Council President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs will be able to sign international agreements on behalf of EU member states.
- Under the new Treaty the UK retains the right to opt in or out of any policies in the field of justice and home affairs.
- The treaty introduces a formal option for a country to leave the EU under negotiated terms.
Rural and Maritime Affairs
This Directive establishes a framework for Community action in the field of marine environmental policy.
The European Union has an active rural development policy because this helps to achieve valuable goals for the countryside and for the people who live and work there. Funding is allocated focused on three themes:
- improving the competitiveness of the agricultural and forestry sector;
- improving the environment and the countryside;
- improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging diversification of the rural economy.
- EU Fisheries
The EU is considering introducing International Transferable Rights (ITRs), to allow firms in one member state to buy fishing quotas from another - further information on reform of the EU fisheries policy. In July 2011, the European Commission presented proposals for the reform of the EU common fisheries policy and, proposed a new fund for the EU's maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2020: the European maritime and fisheries fund.
Guidance has recently been published, with examples, on how to remain compliant with EC state aid rules (200 KB PDF) Opens in a new window when financing the delivery of public services.
Youth on the Move was introduced by the European Commission in 2010.
The initiative supports young jobseekers through a package of new resources, designed to make it easier to travel between Member States to find employment and learning opportunities.
With support from the Lifelong Learning Programme, the Youth on the Move initiative aims to extend the opportunity to work or study abroad to all young people in Europe by 2020.
- The Youth on the Move website, provides a single point of access to information about opportunities to study or gain work experience abroad. There are 4 sections: Learn, Study, Train and Work aimed at young people wanting to benefit from the EU.
European Theme for the Year
Publications and Websites
Your Europe - Help and advice on your life, work and travel in the EU covering travel, work, vehicles, family, shopping, living abroad, education, youth and health.
Which EU country is streets ahead on healthcare, and how does the UK fare? Find out in the European Commission's Euro Health Consumer Index 2012 (2.5 MB PDF) Opens in a new window .
Which is the most popular destination in the EU for asylum seekers? Which 10 countries do 50% of asylum seekers originate from? Find out in this Eurostat publication Characteristics of asylum seekers in Europe (230 KB PDF) Opens in a new window .
A Helpdesk for Green Public Procurement is available. Its main mission is to promote and disseminate information about GPP, and to provide timely and accurate answers to stakeholders' enquiries.