What are the European Union directives ?

A directive is a legal act decided by the Council of the European Union, Commission and Parliament.

The EU directives lay down some results that must be achieved in every Member State. The national authorities have to adapt their laws to reach these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. The directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them.

Each directive specifies the date by which the national laws must be adapted – giving national authorities enough freedom to act according to the various national situations.
The directives are used to bring different national laws into line with each other, and are particularly common in matters affecting the operations concerning the single market.

The not-transposition of a directive can be the object of a procedure of failure before the Court of justice of the European Union. The Member States must inform the Commission of the measures taken for the implementation of the directive.

In order to avoid that, the directives are published in the Official journal of the European Union under the title “Acts whose publication is not a condition of their applicability”. 

The Directives come into effect on the set date or 20 days after their publications.

The directives are often used to help enforce free trade, free movement and competition rules across the EU. They can also be used to establish common social policies, and thus can affect employment issues, labour laws, working conditions,  health and safety. They can therefore  affect businesses significantly.



For example, the Waste Water Directive sets out minimum standards for the treatment of water and sewage, but member states can, and often do, apply higher standards than those minimum requirements set out in the directive. Since the signature of the Treaty of Rome, more than 3,500 directives have been adopted by the European institutions.