About the Legal Service
Activities of the Legal Service
- The Commission’s legal adviser
- The Commission’s legal representative
- Helping to improve the quality of the drafting of Union legislation
Helping to improve the quality of the drafting of Union legislation
Mission and activities of the Quality of Legislation team
- Intervention during the preparation of acts
- Participation in the drafting and management of legislative drafting rules
- Codification and recasting
- Seminars on the quality of legislation
Quality of drafting: background and documents
Mission and activities of the Quality of Legislation team
This is the main activity of the Quality of Legislation team (LEG team).
The LEG team ensures that the legislative drafting rules set out in the Joint Practical Guide for persons involved in the drafting of European Union legislation are complied with during the preparation of Commission acts and proposals for acts to be adopted by the other institutions. It also helps to ensure the legal and linguistic consistency of Commission acts in the various official languages of the European Union.
The LEG team intervenes primarily at an early stage during the initial preparation of a draft act in one of the working languages (English, French or German). It is at this stage (before or during inter-service consultation) that the main purpose of its intervention, namely to ensure that draft acts are drawn up clearly and precisely and comply with the legislative drafting rules, can best be achieved. The team also provides general advice on drafting legal acts of the Union.
The LEG team’s contribution regarding draft legal acts under inter-service consultation forms part of the Legal Service’s opinion.
The LEG team may intervene again after the initial draft has been translated in order to check that the legal terminology used in each language is correct and the scope of the act is the same in the different languages.
The Quality of Legislation team participates in the drafting and management of several Interinstitutional guides on the drafting of legal acts of the Union such as the Joint Practical Guide for persons involved in the drafting of European Union legislation, the Joint Handbook for the presentation and drafting of acts subject to the ordinary legislative procedure and the Interinstitutional Style Guide by the EU Publications Office. The team is also involved in the multilingual revision of these guides.
The LEG team has developed and updates the Drafters’ Assistance Package (DAP). DAP aims to help drafters within the Commission to produce legal acts which comply with formal rules. It contains advice on the formal drafting requirements and provides useful links and standard wording in order to make the task of drafting an act easier. A high-quality draft is less likely to be amended later in the adoption procedure.
DAP is based on the ‘Joint Practical Guide for persons involved in the drafting of European Union legislation’ and other formal rules and best practices in use within the Union institutions.
Codification is the process of bringing together an existing act and all its amendments in a new, legally binding act which replaces the codified acts, without any substantive changes. This new act must pass through the full legislative process under an accelerated procedure (see the Interinstitutional Agreement of 20 December 1994 - Accelerated working method for official codification of legislative texts, published in OJ C 102, 04.04.1996, p. 2).
The Legal Service and in particular the LEG team, is responsible for preparing the codified text and monitoring the procedure leading to its adoption.
The Legal Service (the team responsible for the relevant field and the LEG team) is also consulted on preliminary drafts of recasts prepared by Commission departments. Recasting is like codification in that it brings together an existing act and all its amendments in a single new, legally binding act. However, unlike codification, recasting involves substantive changes. The rules on using the recasting technique are laid down in the Interinstitutional Agreement of 28 November 2001 on a more structured use of the recasting technique for legal acts (OJ C 77, 28.3.2002, p. 1).
In order to assist the Commission’s departments in drafting legal acts, the LEG team may provide short drafting courses as and when it has the capacity to do so.
In order to implement measures (d), (e) and (g) of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting Community legislation, the LEG team organises seminars on the quality of legislation and related legal topics.
The seminars can take different forms. Some are more specific and aimed at a specialist audience. Others are more general and are accessible to a wider audience. Speakers include academics, legal professionals, judges and national civil servants.
The documents provided by the speakers are available on the list of seminars on quality of legislation.
Improving the quality of legislative drafting has been a long-standing concern.
In 1992, the European Council adopted the Birmingham Declaration, which called for ‘Community legislation to become simpler and clearer’.
In 1997, the Amsterdam Intergovernmental Conference adopted Declaration No 39 on the quality of the drafting of Community legislation. The Conference noted that ‘the quality of the drafting of Community legislation is crucial if it is to be properly implemented by the competent national authorities and better understood by the public and in business circles’ and called on the institutions to ‘establish by common accord guidelines for improving the quality of the drafting of Community legislation […] and [to take] the internal organisational measures they deem necessary to ensure that these guidelines are properly applied’.
To comply with Declaration No 39, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission adopted the Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation. This agreement set out 22 guidelines on drafting, covering general principles as well as specific parts of acts and drafting points.
Since 2000, measures to improve drafting quality have been implemented alongside other Union initiatives to simplify the regulatory environment such as the Interinstitutional Agreement of 16 December 2003 on better law-making.
In its Communication ‘EU Regulatory Fitness’ of 12 December 2012, the Commission emphasised that ‘managing the quality of the legislation also means making sure it is as clear, accessible and easy to comply with as possible’.
The Commission is continuing its efforts to improve the quality of the drafting of its texts in order to make them more concise and accessible, in particular by adopting the Communication ‘Better regulation for better results - An EU agenda’ on 19 May 2015. The planned measures will support integrated evaluation of policy areas, facilitate public consultation and help national administrations in the transposition and implementation of adopted texts.
Finally, by signing a new Interinstitutional Agreement on better law-making in 2016, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission confirmed their intention to use recasting and codification as a way to simplify Union legislation. That agreement replaces the 2003 Agreement.
- Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation , published in OJ C 73, 17.3.1999, p. 1.
- Interinstitutional Agreement of 20 December 1994 - Accelerated working method for official codification of legislative texts, published in OJ C 102, 4.4.1996, p. 2.
- Interinstitutional Agreement of 28 November 2001 on a more structured use of the recasting technique for legal acts, published in OJ C 77, 28.3.2002, p. 1
- Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making of 2016, published in OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1.
1. Commission guides
- Drafter's assistance Package (DAP)
- Legislative Drafting - A Commission Manual
This manual was the Commission's original reference manual for drafting. However, the most recent version dates back to 1997 and does not reflect the changes which have occurred since then in law and in practice. Most of the rules laid down in this manual have been included in DAP in an updated form, adapted to the practical needs of the drafters.
2. Interinstitutional guides
- Joint Practical Guide for persons involved in the drafting of European Union legislation
- Joint Handbook for the presentation and drafting of acts subject to the ordinary legislative procedure
- Interinstitutional Style Guide by the EU Publications Office
3. Council guides
Last updated on 5.1.2017