European Union

Download PDF version of guide for print

I. Introduction

The European Union (EU) is a transnational organization that can be complicated to research. However, the nature of the EU has led to the development of a robust online environment for EU documents, official records, laws, and more. The two main website for official EU information are Europa, the EU main website, and EUR-Lex, a database of EU legislation, caselaw, and official records. Learn more about the EU, member countries, history, etc. on Europa’s About the EU page.

While the EU posts much of its materials online, Duke University Libraries have print collections of EU materials. Perkins Library is one of the official EU depository libraries in the U.S. and has been a full depository library since 1964. It receives all official documents except Technical Reports. The Goodson Law Library houses a smaller collection of primary and secondary materials about the European Union.

Back to top

II. Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

As you research, you may come across unfamiliar acronyms or terms, sometimes referred to as eurojargon, for which the following sources will be useful. EUR-Lex Glossary of Summaries, European Council Glossary, and EuroVoc. The EU publishes Glossary: Institutions, Policies, and Enlargement of the European Union, which is available for download as a PDF through the EU Bookshop.

Encyclopedia of European Union Law (KJE926 .E52) [formerly Encyclopedia of European Community Law (KJE926 .E56 1973)], a regularly updated treatise covering EU constitutional texts, treaties, and ancillary texts such as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Encyclopedia of the European Union (Desmond Dinan ed., updated ed.) (Reference KJE926 .E58 2000) – a useful reference tool with short entries in alphabetical order, some of which include bibliographies.

The European Union Encyclopedia and Directory, 15th ed. (Reference KJE15 .E87 2015) – provides directory and statistical information, a dictionary of EU terms, basic information about the operation of the institutions of the EU as well as in-depth essays on political, legal, and economic issues.

Finn Laursen, Historical Dictionary of the European Union – provides cross-referenced entries on persons, member states, policies and includes a chronology and a bibliography.

Back to top

III. Treatises

Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, The ABC of Community Law – EU publication that reviews the beginning of the European project through the creation of the EU and explains the broad principles and legal order that make the foundation of the EU; available for download as a PDF through the EU Bookshop

European Union Law Guide (Philip Raworth, ed.) (KJE949 .E97 1994) – a collection of documents organized by subject, and it is updated several times a year.

Ralph H. Folsom, European Union Law in a Nutshell, 8th ed. (Reserve KJE949 .F55 2014) – a basic introduction to European Union law.

Trevor C. Hartley, The Foundations of European Community Law, 7th ed. (KJE947 .¬H37 2010) provides an introduction to the constitutional and administrative law of the EC.

P.S.R.F. Mathijsen & P. Dyrberg, Mathijsen's Guide to European Union Law (11th ed.) (KJE947 .M37 2013) – describes the history and development of the EU and covers current policy, structure, and the EU’s role in international relations.

The Oxford Handbook of European Union Law – covers the EU from inception through modern challenges and debates.

Smit & Herzog on the Law of the European Union (formerly Law of the European Economic Community: A Commentary on the EEC Treaty) (KJE964 .S652 & online in Lexis Advance) – an authoritative treatise, in biannually updated looseleaf format, with an emphasis on the nature and scope of EU law.

Back to top


There are articles on the EU in many law reviews.  There are also several English language journals that focus on the EU.  These include: The Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies, Columbia Journal of European Law, Common Market Law Review, European Journal of Law and Economics, European Law Journal, European Law Review, European Public Law, Journal of Common Market Studies, and Legal Issues of European Integration. The Jean Monnet Center annually publishes working papers on the EU.

Yearbook of European Law (Periodicals) - contains annual surveys of legal developments along with articles and book reviews.

The European Journal of Legal Studies – freely accessible, multilingual, and encourages original publications and submissions by young lawyers and academics, including doctoral candidates.

Back to top


Duke University Libraries regularly add new resources to our collection. The following non-comprehensive list of related subject headings will help you search the online catalog ( for additional materials.


  • Administrative procedure--European Union countries
  • Court of Justice of the European Communities
  • European Union
  • European Union countries
  • Free trade--European Union countries
  • Law -- European Union countries
  • Monetary policy--European Union countries

Back to top


The best source is often going to be either Europa, the official EU website or EUR-Lex, the official EU database of EU law. However, older EU documentation is not yet available digitally directly from the EU, so there is a separate section below for historic document research.

Please note: Lexis Advance and Westlaw do have some European Union documents available through their database, but they change their collection is not complete and changes often. They are a useful way to view treatises and some current awareness, but the EU webpages are the best resources for locating official versions of EU documents.

A. Treaties

Treaties are primary legislation in the EU; no law can be proposed in a policy area that is not cited in a treaty. An annotated list of major treaties is available on Europa. Full text of all treaties is available through EUR-Lex.

Back to top

B. Legislative Documents


1. Legislation

Europa provides a detailed explanation of the EU law-making process and describes how to find EU legislation. It also explains the EU regulatory process.

The Official Journal of the European Communities (OJ) is the major resource for locating information about the EU; the final texts of legal acts adopted by the Council appear here. It is published daily and is divided into L-series (legislation), C-series (information and notices), and occasional subseries. The OJ can be accessed through EUR-Lex. Since July 1, 2013, the electronic edition of the OJ, available through EUR-LEX, is authentic and produces legal effect, with the exception of two print editions.

Duke Libraries’ copies of print and microfiche versions of the OJ can be located by searching the catalog for the series needed.

EC law as published in the OJ is not later compiled into a set of statutes in force, so the Directory of European Union Legislation, available through EUR-Lex, is an essential tool for updating and verifying legislation. Summaries of EU Legislation provides easy-to-read, concise summaries on the main aspects of EU legislation, policies, and activities.


2. Preparatory Acts

Many documents are produced during various stages of the EU legislative process (COM, JOIN, SWD, etc), and they are made available on EUR-Lex. A directory of preparatory acts arranged by subject is also available through EUR-Lex.

Many of these documents are available in microfiche from the Perkins/Bostock Library. Search the catalog to locate them .


3. Procedures (formerly PreLex)

The EU prepares timelines for legislation, which include detailed information of each stage of the process, which can be viewed through EUR-Lex.

4. National Law

N-Lex – a central EU website for accessing the national law databases for each member country, where available.

Back to top

C. Judicial Documents

The EU three judicial instances: the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [C cases]; the General Court [formerly ECFI] [T cases]; and the Civil Service Tribunal [F cases].

Useful works about the Court of Justice include the following:

  • Bertrand Wägenbaur, Court of Justice of the European Union: Commentary on Statue and Rules of Procedure (KJE5461 .W34 2013).
  • Anthony Arnull, The European Union and its Court of Justice, 2d ed. (KJE5461 .A97 2006).


1. Case Law

CVRIA, the ECJ’s website, provides access to cases from all three EU Courts. While the main page above allows you to search for cases, it will search full text of cases before 1998. To access older cases, use the Court’s numerical access portal. Annotated judgments are also available on the ECJ’s website.


2. Court Reports

Court Reports are an official publication of case law by the three judicial instances of the EU. An explanation of the Reports is available from the ECJ.  Access to the Reports is available through CVRIA (navigate using the side bar to the reports under ‘Case-law’) and EUR-Lex. The online versions of the General Reports and Reports of Staff Cases have been the official version since January 2012 and January 2010, respectively.
There are several digests of ECJ cases:

  • European Current Law (formerly European Law Digest) (KJC30 .E97) – a monthly index with citations and brief summaries of both national and international court decisions; the coverage is selective.
  • Digest of Case Law Relating to the European Communities (KJE925.5 .D53 ser. A (1984-1990) and ser. D (1981)) and its predecessor Compendium of Case Law Relating to the European Communities (1953-76) (KJE923 .R461) – helps locate decisions of the ECJ and national courts.

Cases are also reported in the following commercial sources:

  • Common Market Law Reports (CMLR) (KJE923.7 .C65) (v.1 [1962] – 2010).
  • European Commercial Cases (KJE2044.6 .E97) (vol. 13 -2009).
  • European Union Law Reporter (formerly Common Market Reporter) (KJE925.5 .E97) – also includes treaties, legislation and annotations, published the full text of cases from 1961 to 1988.  Beginning in 1989, the full text of selected cases before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance as well as certain Commission decisions appear in CCH European Community Cases (Superseded Looseleaf, 1989-2001).  There is a finding list for cases and Commission decisions in the European Union Law Reporter which refers you to both publications.
  • International Law Reports (KZ199 .A56). 


3. National Case Law concerning EU law

EUR-Lex National Case Law Database – a searchable database of national case law concerning EU law from EU countries as well as EFTA, European Court of Human Rights, and a select few non-EU countries.

Dec.Nat – a searchable database of national case law concerning EU law.

D. Information on European Union Institutions, Agencies, and Other Bodies

Europa provides a detailed list of EU institutions and other bodies. Each link on the list will lead to a detailed description of the institution or body on Europa with a link to the official website. Being that there are many agencies and other bodies, there is also a database of agencies searchable by type, topic, country, and keyword. They also post an official directory of the European Union called EU Whoiswho.  The directory can be searched by person or entity, or browsed by navigating the hierarchy.

Back to top

E. Statistics

The EU regularly conducts surveys and polls on a range of topics. The main source for official EU statistics is EUROStat. Europa provides a list of  other useful sources for statistics.

Back to top

F. Other Official EU Documents

Europa maintains a list with links to all official online source for each type of European Union documents.

Back to top

G. Locating Historic EU Documents

If what you are looking for is not located in any of the online sources below, search the catalog to see if the Perkins collection of European Documents has a copy.

Historical Archives – website for the official EU archive. A limited selection of resources is available digitally here. They are planning on archiving EU websites as well.

Archive of European Integration – contains historical EU documents in PDF format.
ArchiDok  – electronic archive of full texts for the EU in all policy areas.

CVCE [formerly European Navigator] – open source for publications covering the EU integration.

Back to top


EU Explained – a series of short papers the EU publishes covering a range of topics such as banking and finance, climate action, and food safety. The series is available for free from the EU bookshop.

European Justice Portal – EU’s effort to create a “one-stop-shop in the area of justice,” offers information on EU legal system as well as the procedures in member states.

The European Union in the U.S. – sponsored by the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States and provides both background and current information on the EU.

European Source Online  – a database and information service compiled and edited by the Cardiff Document Center, a well-trusted source for information about the EU, that provides information on EU institutions and activities.

IPEX  – provides access to information exchanged between national parliaments of member states and the EU Parliament concerning issues related to the EU.

Back to top


A. EU Sources

EU Calendar – displays up to a years’ worth of upcoming events by topic, organizer, and type.

EU NewsRoom – provides press releases (the EU’s “RAPID” service), a calendar of events and other information on important issues in the news. There is also a searchable database of EU press releases. Europa also has a list of EU press release databases.

Europe Media Monitor – aggregates global online news and tracks over 500 predefined topics.

The General Report on the Activities of the European Union (formerly General Report on the Activities of the Community) (KJE5380.A7 C65 & electronically) – the annual report of the Commission to the Parliament, reviews the activities of the EU for the previous year.

Back to top

B. Unofficial Sources Covering the EU

Newsletter of the European Union – unofficial newsletter covering recent developments in EU activities and law

EUObserver – news and opinion pieces on EU activities and developments.

EURACTIV – EU news covering agrifood, economy, health and more.

ESO News and Analysis – links to recently added ESO records, information in subject areas or by country, and external news sources covering the EU; email alerts for ESO additions can by created based on subjects or location through ESO.

EU Focus (Periodicals & online through Westlaw) – a monthly newsletter accompanying the European Union Law Reporter, covers EU legal news.

Back to top


ESO, Information Guides -  guides on how to research EU law in a series of different areas.

Duncan Alford & Alyson Drake, European Union Legal Materials: An Infrequent User’s Guide, GLOBALEX (2016) – gives advice on locating and understanding EU documents.

Patrick Overy, European Union: A Guide to Tracing Working Documents, GLOBALEX – an in-depth guide on researching the context, history, and negotiations surrounding the development of EU documents.

Marylin J. Raisch, European Union, ASIL ELECTRONIC RESOURCE GUIDE  (ERG) – this guide provides explanation of EU procedure and structure and points to online resources for official documents and highlights some useful print resources.

Foreign Law Guide – provides information about the legal systems of countries around the world and citations to their legal publications; has a section on the European Union. 

Back to top


The Bluebook explains how to cite European Documents in Rules 21.5.2 & 21.9. However, the citations you will likely come across in your research will not be formatted in that fashion. The Cardiff Documentation center has a very helpful explanation of citing EU documents. The ECJ also provides guidance on how to cite the Court’s cases.

Back to top


On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) voted to withdraw from EU. This will have lasting consequences on European relations, EU structure, trade, immigration, and more. There is much speculation on what the effects will be and how it will proceed, but on the whole, Brexit is traversing unchartered territory. This section will lead you to some useful resources when starting your research and places to keep abreast of any developments.

The process for withdrawal is explained in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, though this will be the first time that provision is triggered. The option to withdraw was introduced for the first time by the Lisbon Treaty, which you will often hear mention of in discussions of Brexit. European Parliamentary Research Service published a briefing explaining  the genesis and rationale of Article 50 as well as the procedure for withdrawal.

The withdrawal process commenced  March 29, 2017 when British Prime Minister Theresa May sent the letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk that started the clock on the withdrawal process. The European Commission released a fact sheet on the very same day on Article 50 and the process.

Back to top

A. Tracking Developments

The UK has created the Department for Exiting the European Union. Their website is a good place to find UK government reports and updates on the withdrawal process. UK Parliament’s website has a dedicated page for news on exiting the EU.

The EU has a page on Europa displaying all Brexit events on a timeline.

Practical Law has an RSS feed and website highlighting resources on the legal implications of Brexit. Materials are accessible to law school faculty and students using your Westlaw account.

The BBC has a dedicated page for Brexit news as does Euronews.

Back to top

B. Interesting Reads

Elspeth Guild, Brexit and its Consequences for UK and EU Citizenship or Monstrous Citizenship (KD4050 .G85 2017) – discusses the way discussions of EU citizenship and immigration intertwined to create the culture of fear that lead to the referendum.

Britain Alone!: The Implications and Consequences of United Kingdom Exit from the EU (KJE5092.G7 B748 2016) – Published before the referendum passed, this book covers the history and culture that created a strong anti-EU sentiment in the UK.

World Bank Group, Trade and Investment Implications of Brexit -  Note by the World Bank Group on Brexit’s implications for the industry.

Back to top

C. Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

A pressing question is what effect the withdrawal will have on the EU-only treaties and other international agreements with third parties.  Many commentators believe that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations (VCLT) will play a role as it provides rules for when international agreements do not include denunciation or withdrawal clauses. The issues become more complicated with mixed agreements, agreements signed and ratified UK as well as the EU, but the VCLT is a good place to begin researching the possible implications.

The Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties: A Commentary (KZ1298.31969 .V54 2011 & electronically) – detailed commentary on the treaty provisions and analysis of each section.

Back to top

For hands-on practice researching EU documents, take a look at the Duke University School of Law and University of California, Berkeley, School of Law International Legal Research Tutorial.

rev. 06/2017 cml