The term European legal instruments refers to the instruments available to the European institutions to carry out their tasks. The instruments listed in Article 288 of the TFEU are:

  • regulations: these are binding in their entirety and directly applicable in all Member States;
  • directives: these bind the Member States as to the results to be achieved; they have to be transposed into the national legal framework and thus leave margin for manoeuvre as to the form and means of implementation;
  • decisions: these are fully binding on those to whom they are addressed;
  • recommendations and opinions: these are non-binding, declaratory instruments.

Furthermore, the Lisbon Treaty introduces the possibility for the European legislator to delegate to the Commission the power to adopt non-legislative acts of general scope which supplement or amend non-essential elements of legislative acts (Article 290 of the TFEU).

In addition to the instruments listed in Article 288 of the TFEU, practice has led to the development of a whole series of sui generis documents: interinstitutional agreements, resolutions, conclusions, communications, green papers and white papers.

Source: Glossary of EU Law