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JILT 1997 (3) - Norman Nunn-Price


Improving access to Community legislation and its transposition into national law

Norman Nunn-Price
Context Ltd

This study was carried out under contract No. 1440 from the European Commission by Context Ltd ( Norman Nunn-Price) and the Buro fur Grundlagenforschung und Systemplanung ( Dr Werner Robert Svoboda).

1. The Current Situation
3. References to EU law
4. Notification Procedure
5. User Needs
6. Possible Solutions
  6.1 Recommendations
7. Conclusions

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This is an Information Paper published on 31 October 1997.

Citation: Nunn-Price N, 'CELEX : Improving access to Community legislation and its transposition into national law', Information Paper, 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>.

1. The Current Situation

This study completed a comprehensive survey of the legal database services in the member states of the European Union with the addition of Norway and Switzerland. In particular it identified those services which contained or intended to contain, the full text of the national implementing measures for EU legislation.

All the member states of the EU, except for Ireland have operational online databases which cover their own national law comprehensively. In every country, except Luxembourg, there is at least one database which contains the full text of the national legislation. Thus the situation in the EU is such that it is perfectly feasible to search for the national implementations of EU legislation within any particular member state. A list of these national legislative online databases is shown in Figure 1. A further list of those which are available off-line i.e. on CD-ROM is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Characteristics of online legislative databases in Europe.

Cntry. Database Provider Database Name compre-
fulltext [2] consoli-
B Ministry of Justice JUSTEL Yes Yes No FT
DK Ministry of Justice RETSINFORMATION Yes Yes No PF
EL Intrasoft NOMOS Yes Yes Yes FT
Athens Bar Association THEMIS No Yes Yes PF
E Official Journal (BOE) IBERLEX Yes Yes No PF
F Journaux Officiels JORF Yes Yes No FT
Journaux Officiels LEGI Yes Yes Yes FT
Premier Ministre LEX Yes No - PF
Lexis/Lamy LOIREG Yes Yes No FT
I Corte Suprema di Cassazione LEXS L Yes No PF
Corte Suprema di Cassazione TITLEX Yes No - PF
Gazzetta Ufficiale (IPZS) GURITEL Yes Yes No FT
L Ministere d'Etat MELE Yes No - N
NL SDU Informatiebank Opmaat Yes Yes No FT
Kluwer ADW Yes Yes Yes FT
Vermande DUTCH LEG No Yes Yes FT
ASSER Instituut RUN IM No - PF
A Bundeskanzleramt (RIS) BND Yes Yes Yes PF
Bundeskanzleramt (RIS) BGBI Yes Yes No PF
Staatsdruckerei BGBI Yes Yes No PF
Parliament PARLINKOM L Yes No PF
P Official Journal (Digesto) PCMLEX Yes Yes No PF
Ministry of Foreign Affairs EURODOC IM No - PF
S Rattsbanken SFS Yes Yes Yes PF
Parliament RIXLEX L Yes Yes PF
Kommerskollegium GENOMFORANDE IM No - PF
UK Stationery Office STATUTE LAW DATABASE L Yes Yes/No FT
Context Ltd SI R Yes No FT
LEXIS/Butterworth STAT, SI Yes Yes Yes FT
N Lovdata NORLEX Yes Yes Yes PF
CH Bundesverwaltung BUNDESRECHT Yes Yes Yes FT

Figure 2: Characteristics of offline legislative databases in Europe.

Cntry. Database Provider Database Name compre-
B Ministry of Justice JUSTEL Yes Yes No FT
Perform-Doc BELGILEX Yes Yes No PF
Kluwer JUDIT Yes No - -
Kluwer TWS-CD No Yes Yes -
Kluwer FBW-CD No Yes Yes -
Boorberg BGBI I + II Yes Yes No -
E Official Journal (BOE) IBERLEX CD Yes Yes No -
Aranzadi LEGISLACION No No - -
F Lexis/Lamy LEXILASER LEG + REG Yes Yes No -
Journal Officiel LOIS et DECRETS Yes Yes/I No -
Juriscope TRANSPOSIAL IM Yes No -
I De Agostini LEGGI D'ITALIA No Yes Yes -
NL Kluwer ADW Yes Yes Yes -
A Osterreichische Staatsdruckerei BUNDESGESETZBLATT Yes Yes/I No -
P Official Journal (Digesto) LEXDATA PLUS Yes Yes No -
Ey Edita LAW DB No Yes Yes -
UK Context SI R Yes No -
N Lovdata NORLEX Yes Yes Yes -


There are a number of options for accessing CELEX itself. These include:-

  • direct access to CELEX on the EU's own computing centre in Luxembourg
    • by the information officers within the Institutions of the EU
    • by privileged external users such as Universities via the EUROBASES service of the Office for Official Publications (EUR-OP)
    • by the official gateways newly set up in each member state
  • access to the derived versions of CELEX licensed by EUR-OP and available as
    • online versions
    • CD-ROM versions

The official gateways are relatively recent developments so there is, as yet, only limited experience of their effectiveness. In 1996 the total connect time by gateway users was 3,413 hours which is about 5 per cent of the external online usage of CELEX on the Luxembourg machine.

In 1996 there were 19 licencees of the CELEX data who have built their own version of CELEX in either online or off-line forms. The licences are set at a reasonable price to encourage dissemination of the data. The result is that the usage of these derived versions of CELEX is at least 5 times that of the external direct access to the original version of CELEX. The study identified 10 commercial online services, 4 public administration online services and 7 CD-ROM suppliers. The CD-ROMs are published in 6 of the official languages of the EU Figure 3 shows the list of online applications of CELEX. Figure 4 shows the list of CD-ROM versions of CELEX.

Figure 3: Online applications of CELEX

Country Language Host CELEX contents
additional contents
D German JURIS original -
EL Greek INTRASOFT original -
F French ORT (CJCE, JOCE) 3, 6 -
A German RIS/BKA original -
P Portuguese MINISTERIO DA JUSTICA 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 -
FIN English FINLEX/ M. o. Justice original -
S English SEMA original hyperlinks to national law
UK English CONTEXT original hyperlinks to national law
English KNIGHT-RIDDER original -
English FT PROFILE - -
English REUTERS - -
N English LOVDATA original hyperlinks to national law

Figure 4: CD-ROM applications of CELEX

Language Producer Name CELEX
updates per year price per year
(excl VAT)
Danish Context Ltd CELEX/Justis original - 4 GBP 1,200
Dutch Kluwer Datalex/EPMS ELEX not sec. 9 literature etc 4 HFL 4,050
SDU Informatiebank CD-ROM EUROPA not sec. 9 literature on case law etc. 4 HFL 2,240
English Context Ltd CELEX/Justis original fulltexts, UK impl. Measures, tables 4 GBP 1,250
ILI - Infonorme London Information EUROLAW original fulltexts, tables


GBP 1,095
GBP 1,395
Technical Indexes Ltd EUROPEAN LAW original UK impl. measures etc 6 GBP 1,295
Finnish - - - - - -
French Context Ltd CELEX/Justis original fulltexts, tables 4 GBP 1,200
ILI - Infonorme London Information EUROLAW original - 4 FF 10,800
German Context Ltd CELEX/Justis original fulltexts 4 GBP 1,200
ILI - Infonorme London Information EUROLAW original fulltexts, tables 4 ATS 21,290
Dr. Otto Schmidt KG Eurolex original - 2 DEM 2,900
Greek - - - - - -
Italian CEDIS s.r.l CELEX Euro-Data original - 3 LIT 1,3 Mio (DOS)
LIT 1,5 Mio (WIN)
ILI - Infonorme London Information EUROLAW original fulltexts, tables 4 LIT 2,9 Mio
Portuguese - - - - - -
Spanish - - - - - -
Swedish - - - - - -

3. References to EU law

All the member states, except the United Kingdom, have Official Journals in which new or amended legislation is published. If a piece of legislation is derived from an EU directive then that directive is usually, but not always, referred to in some way in the legislation. If the new legislation is in the form of a regulation then there is always a reference to the original directive. If the directive requires a full Act of Parliament then there is no reference to it in a U.K. Statute and this sometimes occurs in other member states as well (see Figure 5).

It should be noted that since 1990 all Community directives have explicitly stated that there is an obligation on the member states to provide a reference to the directive in their own implementing measures.

Figure 5: References to EC directives in the Official Publications

The following table gives a survey of the place and format of the reference of the EC directives in the national implementation measures in the implementing statutes or regulations in the Official publications and the existence of general rules for this referencing.

Country Place of reference Statutes/Statutory Instruments Format of the References General Rules
EC Directive CELEX No.
date OJ EC
B uncertain/preamble Yes Yes No No No
DK footnote Yes Yes Yes No Yes
D uncertain (title, footnote) Yes Yes Yes/No No No
EL uncertain Yes Yes/No Yes/No No No
E title/preamble Yes Yes No No No
F uncertain/visa Yes Yes No No Yes
IRL title or preamble Yes No No No No
I title or preamble Yes Yes No No No
L at the end Yes No No No Yes
NL preamble Yes No Yes/No No Yes
A heading No No No Yes Yes
P preamble Yes Yes No No No
FIN preamble Yes Yes Yes No No
S footnote Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
UK uncertain/explanatory note Yes Yes Yes/No No No
NOR title Yes No No No No
CH uncertain Yes Yes Yes No Yes

4. Notification Procedure

The national implementing measures are monitored not only by the Secretariat General of the Commission but also by Directorate General XV which is responsible for the Internal Market. The Secretariat General has an internal database with which it monitors the implementation process in the member states. Likewise D.G.XV is setting up a database to cover the transposition of directives into national law.

The drafting of national regulations for implementing Community directives is normally done in the responsible Ministry in the respective member states. This draft is then given parliamentary approval and so becomes national law. It is then sent to Brussels, firstly to the respective permanent representative of the member state who then passes it to the Secretariat General of the Commission. Parliamentary approval for a regulation is fairly rapid e.g. one month in the U.K. This process accounts for over 90 per cent of the EU directives. However if a full Act of Parliament is required then this process is much longer and is subject to the vagaries of the parliamentary time table and the national political situation. Compliance of the national law with the original directive is checked by the legal advisers in each member state and their permanent representatives in Brussels and then by the Secretariat General of the Commission. The final arbiter in any dispute is the European Court of Justice.

The references to these national implementations are sent to the CELEX Group and entered into Sector 7 of CELEX. This occurs at the end of a lengthy and tortuous process so it is not surprising that there are errors in Sector 7. The responsibility for the accuracy of entries in Sector 7 must rest with the Secretariat General of the Commission which must improve its checking procedures.

In any year member states enact about 3,000 legal instruments each year to implement Community directives. These amount to about 100Mb of characters, possibly as much as 150Mb in any one year if Acts of Parliament and amendments are included.

5. User needs

There have been several surveys of the use of CELEX in recent years. Both the general survey of 1995 and the related survey of the database INFO92 show that Sector 7 is used extensively for its references to national implementing measures. There are also reservations on the reliability and updateness of Sector 7 and so these surveys emphasise the need to back up Sector 7 with information from other sources.

As part of this study a survey of users was carried out in the U.K. A total of 500 questionnaires were distributed and 111 were returned. These were spread among the following types of organisations:

- Universities and European Documentation Centres 44%
- Government and Local Government 20%
- Private law firms 36%

The relative importance of the various sectors of CELEX is shown in the following table compiled from the returned questionnaires:

- Sector 1/2 the treaties and international agreements 560
- Sector 3/4 the legislation 941
- Sector 5 the proposals 832
- Sector 6 the case law 755
- Sector 7 the implementing measures 707
- Sector 9 the Parliamentary questions 303

Clearly the legislation in Sector 3/4 is the most used but the national implementation references in Sector 7 scored highly thus showing that they are important. This table is shown graphically in Figure 6.

A further question asked how often users require information on implementing measures from their own country and from other countries. The results show that:

  • 70 per cent of users access UK implementing measures more than once per month
  • 40 per cent of users access other countries implementing measures more than once per month

The average frequency is about once a week but some users record daily usage.

Another significant result was that no less than 80 per cent of the respondents said that they used the INTERNET or World Wide Web and a further 8 per cent intend to start soon. This clearly shows the impact of the INTERNET on professional users in the UK. It is very likely that this is true in the other member states of the EU.

The Source d'Europe ,which is a joint venture between the French Government and the Commission, has the task of marketing the activities of the EU in a broad sense. This organisation manages an intermediary information service with CELEX as one of its sources. About 80 per cent of the queries which it puts to CELEX are concerned with Sector 7, mostly for French implementation measures but also for U.K. measures and German measures.

All in all it is clear that information on the implementation of EU measures in ones own country is very important, indeed, as important as the original EU legislation itself. The implementing measures in other countries are less universally important but there are groups of users for whom this information is essential. These latter users include;

  • the Institutions of the EU especially units of the Commission
  • the national government units monitoring implementations in other member states
  • large law firms with international practices
  • international companies
  • academic lawyers researching in comparative law
  • export oriented companies
  • Parliamentary draftsmen
  • etc.

All these user groups need foreign national implementation measures, usually for one or two particular member states. Normally references are sufficient for a starting point and for knowing which text or texts will be required in dealing with a problem.

Figure 6: Sector Importance

Figure 6

6. Possible solutions

There are several possible ways for enhancing the relationships between CELEX and the national law databases in the member states, in particular for improving the availability of the national implementing measures. These possibilities include:

  • an improved notification procedure so that Sector 7 of CELEX contains more up to date, accurate references to the national implementing measures
  • adding further information to Sector 7 of CELEX, such as the full titles of the implementing measures
  • extending the coverage of Sector 7 of CELEX with information from other sources so that Sector 7 could be considered as a database in its own right
  • incorporating the full text of the implementing measures in CELEX in the original languages only or, possibly, with translations, or establishing such a database independent of CELEX
  • establishing specific online or off-line databases on a country basis for all or some member states
  • leaving the national implementing measures in the national law databases but providing a single point access to them.

Improved references in Sector 7 of CELEX

At the moment the data in Sector 7 is not very up to date and contains inaccuracies. This must be remedied by tightening up the notification procedure and laying the responsibility for the entries in Sector 7 clearly on the Secretariat General of the Commission. This is an essential first step.

Adding information to Sector 7 of CELEX

The full titles of many of the implementing measures are contained in Sector 7 but not always consistently. These titles should be added systematically in their original languages. There should be no attempt at translating these titles. The commencement dates of these implementations could also be added.

A wider database of references to the national implementing measures

Sector 7 of CELEX could be developed by the addition of data from other sources such as the data from D.G.XV, from Transposial, from DTI Spearhead and from the national databases. This could be a replacement for Sector 7 or a database in its own right.

A full text database of the implementing measures in all the member states

This would be an ideal solution but, like many ideals, impossible of fulfilment in the practical sense. It would be expensive to set up and difficult to maintain. It would be a mixture of official languages which would bring other problems. Finally it is doubtful whether such a database would have sufficient usage to justify its high costs.

Establishing specific databases on a member state basis

It would be sensible to support the creation, in each member state, of a database of its own national implementing measures. Such a database would need to be set up with a high degree of expert legal advice if it is to be comprehensive and cover the relationships between the implementing measures and the national laws. Such a database would be of great value to the monitoring units of the Commission which should therefore support the creation of such databases.

National implementing measures in the national legal databases - with a single point of access

The best solution is for each member state to incorporate the full text of its national implementing measures in its national legal database and for that database to be linked up with the other national databases and CELEX in a logical manner. This is technically feasible and practical in the short term. It avoids the duplication of data and the creation and maintenance of specialist databases used by few people. It also puts the national implementing measures in the context of national law.

6.1 Recommendations

The main recommendation is to combine options (a), (b), (c) and (f ). Sector 7 of CELEX should contain the improved references to national implementing measures as set out in (a), (b) and (c). This can be done at little cost and to great advantage.

The only satisfying solution in the long term is (f). A European access service for national implementing measures (suggested name EULEX) should be created. It should be based on an online catalogue containing references such as those in the enhanced Sector 7 which could be used to obtain the full text of any implementing measure from the appropriate national legal database. EULEX should provide links to all the national databases and to CELEX and to the World Wide Web.

Each of the national legal database services will have its own interface, search engine and network protocol. EULEX will have to provide a methodology for the end user which will simplify the access to these different services. Some form of common interface and common network protocol will be required. Internet techniques appear the most promising since they are so widely used.

None of this can be achieved overnight but progress can be made step by step. The first step is a simple single point of access via a WWW Home Page and links to all the relevant national legal database systems. The links can be implemented as WWW hyperlinks for those database systems already connected to WWW or as Telnet links for those with only terminal emulation access. In this arrangement most of the work will be done in the national database system which will have to handle the logon procedure and the charging mechanism. The central organisation EULEX will only need to provide a small central administration and the WWW Home Page.

The second step will be to enhance the single point of access by the central organisation EULEX taking over the logon procedure, the charging procedure, the central statistics and the central help desk support.

In the third step EULEX will take over all the previous steps and provide all the protocol conversions, encryption and charging algorithms required. The user interface will be some form of WWW graphical interface with hyperlinks. This is shown diagrammatically in Figure 7.

It is tempting to try to design a common interface but this is not necessary because WWW interfaces are very user friendly so several forms could be used. The most important idea is to have a choice of one or two interfaces which are available in all the various official languages.

Figure 7 : Third step of the implementation (long-term goal)

This is the most enhanced solution consisting of the steps discussed above but WWW links only (graphical user interface with hyperlinks). Therefore, a central conversion functionality for presenting in HTML, where no national WWW access is available, would be necessary. This means extended central technical infrastructure and programme capabilities.

Figure 7

7. Conclusions

It is clear that systems and databases, which already exist, could provide the full texts in electronic form of the national measures which implement the legislation of the European Union. This is certainly true for the internal needs of each member state. However there is also a demand for the implementing measures of member states other than ones own. This paper has set out a step by step approach which could link all these different database systems and so provide a European wide service so that any end user in any member state could ,easily and quickly, obtain the relevant text of an implementing measure enacted in any member state. This would be done by a new central unit, tentatively called EULEX, which would be responsible , in association with the Office of the Official Publications of the EU, for creating the technical links and protocols and administration for providing this new service. It is understood that this idea has been agreed in principle by the EU and that preliminary work will begin towards the end of 1997.

This would effectively set up a European wide legal network which, in the course of time, could have a much wider effect than its original purpose.


[1] 'Comprehensive' Yes means that (nearly) all legislation (L) and regulations (R) on the state level are contained in the database, IM means that only national implementation measures are contained.

[2] The presence of 'fulltext' is indicated with Yes, only bibliographic references, summaries etc. with No, (Yes/No means that partly full text is present, partly not).

[3] 'References' of EC law (EC directives etc.) present in a particular field (category) PF is indicated, references present in the full text FT is indicated, references not present N is indicated.

[4]'Comprehensive' Yes means that (nearly) all legislation (L) and regulations (R) on the state level are contained in the database, IM means that only national implementation measures are contained.

[5] The presence of 'fulltext' is indicated with Yes, only bibliographic references, summaries etc. with No, Yes/I indicates that the full text is stored in images (not ASCII).

[6] 'References' of EC law (EC directives etc.) present in a particular field (category) PF is indicated, references present in the full text FT is indicated, references not present N is indicated.

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