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The European decision

The decision is a legal instrument available to the European institutions for the implemention of European policies. Decisions are binding acts which may have general application or may apply to a specific addressee.

Decisions are legal acts which form part of the secondary law of the European Union (EU). They are therefore adopted by the European institutions on the basis of the founding Treaties. Depending on the case, the decision may apply to one or more addressees; equally, it may not specify to whom it is addressed.

An act that is binding in its entirety

Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU defines the decision as an act which is binding in its entirety. Consequently, it may not be applied incompletely, selectively or partially.

A decision is adopted following a legislative procedure. It is therefore a legislative act adopted by the Council and the Parliament in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure or a special legislative procedure.

Conversely, a decision is a non-legislative act where it is adopted unilaterally by one of the European institutions. In this case the decision refers to a provision enacted by the European Council, the Council or the Commission in specific cases which are not within the legislator’s area of competence.

Decision specifying to whom it is addressed

A decision may apply to one or more addressees. In this case, its application is strictly individual and it has binding effect only for those to whom it is addressed.

A decision may be addressed to Member States or individuals. For example, the Commission uses decisions to take action against undertakings which have engaged in concerted practices or abused a dominant position.

To enter into force, the decision must be notified to the party concerned. In principle, this procedure consists of the sending of a registered letter with acknowledgement. The decision may also be published in the Official Journal, but this does not dispense with the need for notification, which is the only way to render the act enforceable against those to whom it is addressed.

Decision not specifying to whom it is addressed

Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the decision no longer necessarily specifies to whom it is addressed. The decision has therefore acquired a broader definition and, in particular, has become the basic instrument in the field of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The Council and the European Council may therefore adopt decisions relating to:

  • the interests and strategic objectives of the Union;
  • the action to be taken by the Union at international level;
  • the positions to be adopted by the Union on international issues;
  • the implementing procedures relating to actions and positions of the Union.
Last updated: 03.09.2010
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