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Legal and Attorney System in the European Union – 2023

Legal and Attorney System in the European Union


The European Union’s legal system is a complex structure, unique in that it operates across member states with different legal traditions. The EU law is a distinct legal order that exists alongside national laws, having direct or indirect effect on them.

Sources of EU Law


The founding treaties, including the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), form the constitutional basis of the EU.

Secondary Legislation

Derived from the treaties, secondary legislation includes regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations, and opinions. Regulations are binding in entirety, while directives require member states to achieve specific results.

Case Law

The judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) also form a source of EU law, shaping its interpretation and application.

Legal Institutions

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

The CJEU ensures the uniform interpretation and application of EU law. It consists of the Court of Justice, the General Court, and specialized courts.

European Commission

The European Commission has the role of ensuring that EU law is applied correctly by member states, and can bring infringement proceedings against them.

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Legal Professionals

Attorneys at National Level

Attorneys in EU countries may deal with both national and EU law. They must comply with the legal education and qualification requirements of their respective jurisdictions.

European Lawyers

European Lawyers registered with a bar in an EU country can provide legal services across the EU, under certain directives and regulations governing cross-border practice.

European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO)

The EPPO is responsible for investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice crimes against the EU’s financial interests.

Interaction with National Legal Systems

Direct Effect

Certain EU laws, such as regulations, have direct effect, meaning they become part of national law without the need for national legislation.


EU law takes precedence over conflicting national laws. National courts must set aside national provisions that conflict with EU law.

Challenges and Criticisms

The EU legal system faces challenges such as complexity, democratic deficit concerns, jurisdictional questions, and varying compliance among member states.

Human Rights and Fundamental Principles

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union guarantees human rights within the EU, and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides further protections.


The legal and attorney system of the European Union is a multifaceted and evolving structure, operating across diverse legal traditions of its member states. The interplay between EU law and national laws, the role of legal institutions, the rights and freedoms safeguarded, and the challenges faced make it a complex but fascinating area of study and practice.

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