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Legal Service

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The Commission’s legal adviser

Since it is expected to assist the Commission and all its departments, the Legal Service is basically an internal horizontal department. It must therefore use its resources in such a way as to cover all the Commission’s activities and areas of responsibility. In each of these areas it must be able to assist the institution in exercising its functions, which mainly include:

This fourfold task means that the Legal Service has a very extensive horizontal duty as adviser so as to enable the Legal Service to perform its mission effectively, it must be consulted in advance on all documents to be put before the Commission, and its opinion also goes before the Commission. This represents about 14 000 consultations every year.

The fact that a legal opinion has or has not been followed does not commit the institution vis à vis the other institutions, the Member States or individuals and has no impact in the event of a case being brought in the Court of Justice. If the opposing party in a court action placed a Legal Service opinion in evidence, it would be removed from the file (cf. Order of the Court of Justice of 23 October 2002 in Case C-445/00 Austria v Council).

Given its role in the Commission, the Legal Service is under the direct authority of the President of the Commission. The Director-General of the Legal Service or, if he is absent, the Deputy Director-General attends the Commission’s weekly meeting.

Given this role and the general rules of professional ethics, members of the Legal Service cannot give legal advice to individuals. If you have legal problems or questions, you should approach Europe direct or Your Europe.

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