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European Union Research: E.U. Basics


As of July 1, 2013, there are 28 member states in the European Union and 23 official languages. The most recent member state is Croatia,added in July 2013. You can check applicant states and status on the European Commission’s Enlargement page.

The European Union is a supranational organization, therefore, research resources may be found in sources for both foreign and international law.  There are four major institutions related to European Union Law: the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the Court of Justice.  These institutions and the other EU institutions are described and linked on Europa’s Institutions page.

Resources for background on the European Union and EU research include:

E.U. Institutions

The major institutions of the European Union are:

  • The European Commission represents the interests of the Union as a whole. It proposes legislation, and it implements and administers law and policy.
  • The Council of the European Union represents member states of the EU. It enacts binding legislation and can propose legislation.
  • The European Parliament has direct popular election, and it approves legislation.
  • The Court of Justice interprets and enforces legislation under the treaties.
  • The Court of Auditors monitors the budget.
  • The European Central Bank manages monetary policy and the euro.
  • Directorates-General are administrative agencies. Their websites are good sources for reports and papers for topical research.
    • The Justice DG has information on law and policy on fundamental rights, civil justice, and equality.

Other resources for EU topical research include:

The European Commission Policy Index, with topics on EU law and policy with links to documents

The Register of Commission Documents, with Commission Documents available to search or to browse by type of document and year.

Subject Guide