Guide to the European Documentation Centre


The Albert Sloman Library was designated as a European Documentation Centre (EDC) in 1976. As a 'selective' EDC, it receives all of the main publications of the European Union together with a selection of official publications related to the University of Essex's main research interests. It does not receive all of the material published by the EU.


Members of the University and the local community have access to the material in the EDC, although members of the public should contact the EDC librarian before visiting the Library to ensure that the material they require is available. They should also sign the visitors' book on arrival at the Library.

Opening hours: see our opening hours page

The majority of the EDC publications are located on the 4th floor of the Library in their own separate sequence, ranging from classmark J 280 to J 299. However, users should remember that some COM docs from 1983 to 1995 and European Parliament Reports are only available on microfiche. To use these, ask at the Help Desk on the ground floor.

All of the individual items in the EDC are included in the Library Catalogue.

Brief history of the European Union

It is helpful to have a basic understanding of the history of the European Union when undertaking research into the EU.

1951 European Coal & Steel Community formed (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Luxembourg. Treaty of Paris)

1957 European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community formed (same countries as above. Treaties of Rome)

1973 UK, Denmark and Ireland join EEC

1981 Greece joins

1986 Portugal and Spain join Single European Act signed. European Community to abolish its internal borders

1992 Treaty on European Union signed at Maastricht and entered into force on 01.11.1993. The treaty was a move towards economic and monetary union, with Inter-governmental co-operation in areas such as foreign and security policy. The EEC was renamed simply 'the European Community' (EC). Moreover, by adding areas of intergovernmental cooperation to the existing Community system, the Treaty created the European Union (EU).

1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden join EU

1999 Amsterdam Treaty entered into force on 01.05.99. This treaty revises the Treaty on European Union signed at Maastricht.

2002 Euro notes and coins came into circulation in 12 EU countries (the 'euro area')

2003 Treaty of Nice entered into force on 01.02.03 and amends the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties Establishing the European Communities and certain other related acts.

2004 10 more countries join (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia) bringing the number of member states to 25. Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Brussels European Council on 17 and 18 June 2004 and was signed in Rome on 29 October 2004. It needs to be ratified by each Member State, in line with their own constitutional arrangements (i.e. by parliamentary procedure and/or by referendum). The Constitution will not take effect until it has been ratified by all 25 Member States.

2005 The European Parliament gives its approval for the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the EU.

2007 Two more countries from eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania, now join the EU, brining the number of member states to 27 countries.

2009 Lisbon Treaty came into force

2013 Croatia joined the EU

2016 The UK held a referendum on the EU membership and majority voted for leaving the EU

Institutions of the European Union

European Commission

The Commission is one of the EU's key institutions and has 28 members - one per country. Its job is to uphold the interests of the EU as a whole and as the 'Guardian of the Treaties' it has to ensure that the regulations and directives adopted by the Council and Parliament are being put into effect.

Other duties of the Commission are: it is the only institution that has the right to propose new EU legislation; it carries out the decisions taken by the Council; it is largely responsible for managing the EU's common policies, such as research, development aid, regional policy, etc.; and it also manages the budget for these policies.

The Commission is answerable to Parliament, and the entire Commission has to resign if Parliament passes a motion of censure against it. The Commission is assisted by a civil service made up of  'Directorates-General' (DGs) and services, based mainly in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Main publications:

Commission of the European Communities Documents (Com Docs or Commission Documents) are the working documents of the EU and are often proposals for legislation. COM docs in the Library at Microfiche 277 + J 286.1 + Online journal Coverage: 1999 to Current.

Bulletin of the European Communities J 280.5 continued as: Bulletin of the European Union J 280.5 + Online journal.

General report of the activities on the European Communities at J 280.6 continued as: General report on the activities on the European Union J 280.6 + Online journal

Official Journal (L and C series). J 280.2 + Online journal

Court of Justice

The Court of Justice of the European Communities, located in Luxembourg, is made up of one judge from each EU country, assisted by eight advocates-general. They are appointed by joint agreement of the governments of the member states. Each is appointed for a term of six years which may be renewed.

The Court's job is to ensure that EU law is complied with, and that the treaties are correctly interpreted and applied.

It can find any EU member state guilty of failing to fulfil its obligations under the treaties. It can check whether EU laws have been properly enacted and it can find the European Parliament, the Council or the Commission guilty of failing to act as required.

The Court of Justice is also the only institution that can, at the request of the national courts, give a ruling on the interpretation of the treaties and on the validity and interpretation of EU law. So, when a question of this sort is brought before a court in one of the member states, that court may - and sometimes must - ask the Court of Justice for its ruling.

This system ensures that EU law is interpreted and applied in the same way throughout the European Union.

The Treaties explicitly allow the Court to check whether EU legislation respects the fundamental rights of EU citizens and to give rulings on questions of personal freedom and security.

The Court of First Instance, which was set up in 1989 and consists of one judge from each EU country, is responsible for giving rulings on certain kinds of case, particularly actions brought by firms or private individuals and cases relating to competition law.

Main publications:

Reports of cases before the Court ... (often referred to simply as the European Court Reports [ECR]) J 294 + Online journal

Judgements of the Court are published in the Official Journal. C series. J 280.2 + Online journal

Curia (ECJ Website)

N.B. The Court of Justice should not be confused with the European Court of Human Rights based in Strasbourg (Council of Europe) or the International Court of Justice at The Hague (United Nations).

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union is the EU's main decision-making institution. It was formerly known as the 'Council of Ministers', and for short it is simply called 'the Council'.

Each EU country in turn presides over the Council for a six-month period. Every Council meeting is attended by one minister from each of the member states. Which ministers attend a meeting depends on which topic is on the agenda. There are ten different Council 'configurations', covering all the different policy areas including industry, transport, the environment, etc.

The preparatory work for Council meetings is done by the Committee of Permanent Representatives(Coreper), made up of the member states' ambassadors to the EU, assisted by officials from the national ministries.

The Council and European Parliament share legislative power as well as responsibility for the budget. The Council also concludes international agreements that have been negotiated by the Commission. According to the treaties, the Council has to take its decisions either unanimously or by a majority or 'qualified majority' vote.

The Council provides a Document Centre on it website at:  which contains a Public Register of Council Documents.

European Council

The European Council brings together the heads of state or government of the European Union and the president of the Commission. It defines the general political guidelines of the European Union.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is the only directly-elected body of the European Union and currently has 751 members. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected once every five years by voters right across the 28 Member States of the European Union on behalf of its 510 million citizens.

Parliament normally holds its plenary session in Strasbourg and any additional sessions in Brussels. It has 20 committees that do the preparatory work for its plenary sessions, and a number of political groups that mostly meet in Brussels. The Secretariat-General is based in Luxembourg.

Parliament and the Council share legislative power, and also share equal responsibility for adopting the EU budget.

Last but not least, Parliament is the body that exercises democratic control over the Union. It has the power to dismiss the Commission by adopting a motion of censure. (This requires a two thirds majority). It checks that EU policies are being properly managed and implemented - for example by examining the reports it receives from the Court of Auditors and by putting oral and written questions to the Commission and Council.

Main publications:

European Parliament reports/Working documents of the European Parliament Microfiche 341 + Online journal

Debates of the European Parliament J 282.1 + Online journal

European Parliament decisions and resolutions are included in the Official Journal. C series. J 280.2 + Online journal

Current information is on the European Parliament's website.

Economic and Social Committee

European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) consists of 350 members representing various interest groups. As a consulting body, it provides the representatives a formal platform to express their opinions at European level.  

The EESC has to be consulted before decisions are taken in a great many fields (employment, the European Social Fund, vocational training, etc.). On its own initiative it can also give opinions on other matters it considers important.

The opinions and reports of the Economic and Social Committee are included in the Official Journal. C series J 280.2 + Online journal

Publications of the EU

Official Journal

The Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) is published every day (Tuesday - Saturday). There are 2 series:

L series - Legislation J 280.2 + Online journal
C series - Information and Notices J 280.2 + Online journal

There are also subseries CA to accompany C series (calls for expression of interest, vacancy notices) and LI & CI (covers when there is a change in the planned content of the Official Journal)

S series - Invitations to Tender

A supplementary containing invitations to tender for public works and supply contracts. Available on CD-ROM and also from Tenders' Electronic Daily (TED) at

Other documentation

The majority of the material in the EDC is arranged according to the institution from which it originated. This is then separated into alphabetical sequences of periodicals, series and reports.

The institutions include:

European Parliament J 282

Council of Ministers J 284

European Commission J 286

European Environment Agency J 288

Statistical Office (Eurostat) J 291

Court of Justice J 294

Court of Auditors J 294.5

Committee of the Regions J 295

Economic and Social Committee J 296.E3


European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions J 297.5

European Investment Bank J 298

Legislation & The Legislative Process

Primary legislation (treaties)

The European Union official web site for legal information has the full text of treaties at:

Secondary legislation

The main instruments of secondary legislation are regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions. The definition of each according to article 288 of The Treaty of the Function of the European Union (TFEU):

A regulation is of 'general application' and it is 'binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States'.

A directive is 'binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member state to which it is addressed' but leaves 'to the national authorities the choice of form and methods'

A decision is 'binding in its entirety' and 'a decision which specifies those to whom it is addressed' is 'binding only on them'. Cited in similar way to a directive.

Recommendations and Opinions 'have no binding force.'

N.B. Secondary legislation is printed in the Official Journal (O.J.)


From 2015, regulations, directives, decisions and recommendations are cited as: Institution year/number. Regulations before 2015 are cited: institution number/year, and directives are cited: year/number/institution


The single access point to all legal documents from proposal to publication in the Official Journal. It contains

  • Official Journal of the European Union
  • EU law
  • preparatory acts
  • EU case-law
  • international agreements
  • EFTA documents
  • summaries of EU legislation
  • other public documents.
The Legislative Observatory (OEIL)

The Legislative Observatory analyses and monitors the institutional decision-making process in the European Union, especially focusing on European Parliament. The database contains all procedures still ongoing and all procedures concluded since the beginning of the fourth legislative term in July 1994.

It covers legislative, budgetary and non-legislative procedures, such as: co-decision, consultation and assent procedure; own-initiative reports by the European Parliament; resolutions on topical and urgent subjects adopted by the European Parliament since the beginning of the 4th parliamentary term in July 1994.


A single entry point to national legislation database in individual member states, designed to complement EUR-Lex. It does not contain documents but it is a gateway for national legal information systems.

Finding books and articles

The Library catalogue includes details of all individual items in the EDC (but not periodical articles). You can search by author, title, keyword, subject, etc.

European Commission Library and E-Resource Centre

The centre is a primary source of information on EU policies, history and integration. Contains both the European Commission Library. Its search engine Find-eR allows to search both the library catalogue and online resources.

IBSS (International Bibliography of the Social Sciences)

One of the largest and most comprehensive social science databases in the world, this includes details of articles in over 2400 selected international social science journals, and of around 7000 books per annum.


A bibliographic database which offers access to article summaries from over 20,000 publications. Full text access is available to subscribers of particular publications, although for a definitive view please follow the library catalogue. Non-subscribers can, for the majority of articles, pay-per-view.


The Index to Legal Periodicals indexes over 500 legal journals and the UK journals file contains the full text over 100+ journals.

Web of Science

Includes three large, multidisciplinary databases: Arts and humanities citation index, Social sciences citation index, and each database indexes the core journals in its wide general area, including reviews, editorials, letters, etc.


The Legal Journals Index on Westlaw UK indexes over 400 legal journals and has the full text of some journals.

ZETOC British Library Electronic Table of Contents

Contains details of approximately 20,000 current journals and 16,000 conference proceedings published per year and covers most subjects. The database covers the years from 1993 to date and is updated daily.

All the e-resources above are accessible from The Library Database & E-Resources Menu at

European Union & Related Web sites.

The Albert Sloman Library European Documentation Centre:

The Albert Sloman Library European Documentation Centre

Finding EU Case-Law

Finding EU Legislation

The EU Legislative Process

Websites and Portals: The European Union

Current awareness

Official Journal - J 280.2 + Online journal

Agence Europe. Daily bulletin of EU developments. J 299.8

Europa. The web site of the European Union news section at

Bulletin of the European Communities. J 280.5 + Online journal

European law review. Bi-monthly. K 1.E8 + Online journal

Further reading

Thomson, Ian. The documentation of the European Communities: a guide. 1989. Z 2000

Deckmyn, Veerle. Guide to official information of the European Union. 1996. Z 2000

Mauwet-Hunt, Christiane. The guide to EU information sources on the Internet. 2000. Z 2000

Ramsay, Anne. European Union Information. 1997. Z 2000

Clinch, Peter. Using a law library. 2001 (Ch.4) KD 392

Further guides on finding directives, case law, statistics, COM documents, subject-related information, etc. can be found at classmark Z 2000 on Floor 5.

Contact details

Ai Gooch

Subject Librarian (Law and Official Publications)

The Albert Sloman Library

University of Essex

P.O. Box 24



Tel: (01206) 873181

Fax: (01206) 872289


The University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
+44 (0) 1206 873192