European Civil Law

Common principles and regulations which governs the choice of law in the European Union

Warning: a European civil code is not yet a reality; however, while that does not happen, we expose a set of rules within the European Union to govern choice of law in civil and commercial matters

General Part


To exercise the powers granted to the European Union by the Treaties, the Institutions adopt regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions. 

Regulations have general application. They are binding in their entirety and are directly applicable in all Member States. It is therefore essential to provide immediate access to such legislation, which is incorporated into Member States' legal systems and produces effects without the need for additional acts. 

Directives are binding, as regards the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which they are addressed, but leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods. Directives must be transposed into Member States' law via national measures. It is in this particular way that European Union law and national laws are interlinked.

Decisions are binding in their entirety. They are binding only to those to whom they are addressed. Recommendations and opinions have no binding force.

Electronic publication of the Official Journal

On 7 March 2013, the Council adopted Regulation (EU) No 216/2013. That Regulation, which entered into force on 1 July 2013, stipulates that the Official Journal must be published electronically in the official languages of the institutions of the European Union. Only the Official Journal published in electronic form is authentic and produces legal effects.

In exceptional circumstances, it may not be possible to publish the electronic edition of the Official Journal due to an unforeseen and exceptional disruption of the information system of the Publications Office. In such cases, only the printed edition of the Official Journal is authentic and produces legal effects.

The electronic edition of the Official Journal bears an advanced electronic signature and is made available to the public on the EUR-Lex website in a non-obsolete format and for an unlimited period. It can be consulted free of charge.

The adoption of that Regulation represented a crucial step in guaranteeing access to EU law and has provided legal certainty to citizens, businesses and the institutions, as well as simple, direct and user-friendly access.

Ignorantia juris non excusat

Meaning: a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely by being unaware of its content.

Interpretation of EU Law

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) interprets EU law to make sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and settles legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions.

National courts of EU countries are required to ensure EU law is properly applied. If a national court is in doubt about the interpretation or validity of an EU law, it can ask the Court for clarification. The same mechanism can be used to determine whether a national law or practice is compatible with EU law.