EU law and its application

  • regulations and decisions become binding automatically throughout the EU on the date they enter into force
  • directives must be incorporated by EU countries into their national legislation

Types of EU law

EU countries implement

Regulations and decisions

National authorities must ensure they are correctly applied.

Directives

Each directive contains a deadline by which EU countries must incorporate its provisions into their national legislation and inform the Commission to that effect.

The Commission assists member countries in correctly implementing all EU laws. It provides online information, implementation plans, guidance documents and organises expert‑group meetings.

National implementing measures – how to find them on EUR-Lex

Commission monitors

The Commission is responsible for making sure that all EU countries properly apply EU law. In this role, the Commission is referred to as the ‘guardian of the treaties’.

The Commission will take steps if an EU country:

  • does not fully incorporate a directive into its national law by the set deadline
  • might not have applied EU law correctly

The 2016 communication EU law: Better results through better application explains how the Commission ensures the application, implementation and enforcement of EU law for the benefit of all citizens, consumers and businesses.

Monitoring implementation of EU directives

Better regulation: why and how

When countries fail to apply EU law

If national authorities fail to properly implement EU laws, the Commission may start formal infringement proceedings against the country in question. If the issue is still not settled, the Commission may eventually refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Infringement procedure

How to make a complaint

European Union citizens, residents and businesses are protected by a number of rights thanks to Union law. If you feel that these rights have not been respected by the national authorities of an EU Member State, various means of redress and help are available.

It is recommended that you first take the matter up with national bodies or authorities, such as an ombudsman or a local court. This is because public authorities in EU Member States have the main responsibility for the application of EU law.

Although you will usually be able to enforce your rights better in the country where you live, the European Union may also be able to help you. You can lodge a grievance with the Commission by officially submitting a complaint.

More specific information is available in the dedicated section:

Problems and complaints