European Union legislation

European Union legislation impacts on a wide range of policy areas in all the Member States, including agriculture, fisheries, health and business amongst others.

European legislation is developed in consultation with all Member States and goes through a process which allows different national concerns to be taken into account before the final text is agreed.

There are three main types of EU legislation:

  • Regulations are binding in all Member States, and become law automatically in each Member State as they are published by the European Commission.
  • Decisions are binding in their entirety, so they also automatically become law in Member States upon their publication by the Commission. However, they are binding only upon those to whom they address, so if a decision is addressed to specific Member States then it becomes law only in those Member States.
  • Directives are different. These detail the end results Member States have to achieve, usually through domestic legislation, but they do not specify the text. This is called differential implementation, and allows for flexibility in legislation, as long as the end results remain the same in all Member States .

Member States usually have two years to turn, or transpose, the requirements of a directive into domestic legislation. Failure to transpose within that timeframe may lead to legal proceedings, or infractions, by the Commission.

Whenever the EU issues a directive on a subject which Scotland has responsibility for under devolution, then it is up to the Member States to transpose it on time, and in consultation with the Scottish public.

  • EU Obligations – Guidance on handling our European obligations in a timely and effective way.
  • Transposition – The process for the development and implementation of EU Law into National Law.
  • Infringements – These are legal proceedings whereby the European Commission takes Member States to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to fulfil their obligations under the EU Treaty, including the failure to implement a Directive properly or timeously.

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