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European Union Research Guide: Official Journal of the European Union

Official Journal of the European Union

On this page you will find information about the Official Journal of the European Union and how to find legislation.

Official Journal Essential Information

About the Official Journal

The Official Journal of the European Union ("OJ") is the major source of European Union regulations, directives, and other legislation.

Historical Changes

Prior to 2003, this publication was called the Official Journal of the European Communities.

Before 1973, when the United Kingdom and Ireland joined the EU, the OJ was not published in English. Therefore, all pre-1973 citations are made to the French Journal Officiel des Communautés Européenes ("JO"). All legislation in force has subsequently been translated into English in a special edition of the Official Journal.

The OJ is currently published daily in all of the official languages of the EU. 

Components of the Official Journal

There are two main series: L (legislation) and C (information and notices)

  • L Series (Legislation)
    • Contains regulations and directives adopted by the Commission or the Council alone or jointly with the European Parliament.
  • C Series (Communications, aka Information and Notice)
    • Contains non-binding decisions of the EU institutions such as communications of the Commission on various topics, Court judgments, opinions of the Committee of the Regions or the Economic and Social Council.

Sub Series

  • Subseries CA (e.g. C019A),
    • Has the same number as the C series published on the same day, contains calls for expressions of interest, vacancy notices, etc.
    • CA editions may appear in one, several or all official languages.
  • LI and CI
    • Introduced on 1 January 2016; used for the first time on 16 January 2016 
    • Allows for greater flexibility in the event of a change in the planned content of the Official Journal.

Historical Series

  • CE Series (Communications)
    • Contains Commission proposals (since July 1999).
  • Annex-Debates
    • Contains verbatim reports of the plenary sessions of the European Parliament. Ceased publication after the May 1999 parliamentary session.
  • S Series (Supplement)
    • Contains notices of invitations to bid on EU funded contracts.

See the EUR-Lex FAQ page for more detailed information on the various OJ series.

Finding Legislation

As long as you have a citation to the OJ, you have all of the information you need to look the citation up in the OJ. Citations consist of a date, a series number, and a page number.

Formats of OJ Citations Explanation
Bluebook citation format:  1981 O.J. (L. 338) 27  1981 [year] O.J. (L. 338) [series #] 27 [page #]
OJ Index citation format:  338 27 25.11.1981  338 [series] 27 [page #] 25.11.1981 [day, month, year]
Another citation format:  OJ L338 25.11.1981 p27   OJ L338 [series #] 25.11.1981 [day, month, year] p.27 [page #] 

 Formats of Legislative Reference Numbers    Explanation
Regulation: (EC) 2913/92  (EC) [Community Initials] 2913 [# of regulation] /92 [Year]
Directive or other legislation: 93/13 (EC)  93 [Year] /13 [# of Act] (EC) [Community Initials]

Note that regulations are listed with the year last, while other forms of legislation are listed with the year first. This means that directives, commission decisions, and recommendations can have the same citation! For example, 93/13 (EC) could refer to a directive or a decision. Therefore, you must know what type of legal act you have in order to cross-refer to an OJ cite.

To find an O.J. citation when you only have the legislative reference number, you will need to use an index to cross reference the legislative reference number and the O.J. cite. Several are listed below.

Using subject indexes is the easiest way to find legislation by topic.

When using subject indexes for EU law, you may find that common American law subject headings are not useful; the European legal vocabulary, even in English, can be somewhat different. If you are having trouble locating a relevant subject, look at your secondary sources and determine what language the author is using to describe your issue; try using that language as a subject heading.

Use EuroVoc to find legislation or documentation from any EU institution according to topic.

Use this Directory to find EU legislation that is actually in force by topic.

In addition to the subject directory of EU legislation, above, find subject directories of treaties, case law, international agreements, and other types of documents linked from the EUR-Lex homepage.