United States Mission to the European Union
Foreign Agricultural Service
United States Department Of Agriculture
Last modified: April 13, 2022

Difference between a Regulation, Directive and Decision

The aims set out in the EU treaties are achieved by several types of legal act. Some are binding, others are not. Some apply to all EU countries, others to just a few.

Regulations have binding legal force throughout every Member State and enter into force on a set date in all the Member States.

Example: Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011

Directives lay down certain results that must be achieved but each Member State is free to decide how to transpose directives into national laws.

Example: Directive 2002/46 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to food supplements

Decisions are EU laws relating to specific cases and directed to individual or several Member States, companies or private individuals.  They are binding upon those to whom they are directed.

Example: Commission Implementing Decision 2016/1189 authorizing UV-treated milk as a novel food (see Article 3)

Recommendations are not binding. A recommendation allows the institutions to make their views known and to suggest a line of action without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed.

Example: Video conferencing to help judiciary to work better across borders

Opinions are not binding. An opinion is an instrument that allows the institutions to make a statement in a non-binding fashion, in other words without imposing any legal obligation on those to whom it is addressed.

Example: Opinion on the clean air policy package for Europe