What are EU directives?

Directives are the most common form of EU legal act. In contrast to a regulation, a directive does not apply directly at the national level.

Instead, an EU directive sets out an objective to be achieved, and it is then left to the individual countries to achieve this objective however they best see fit.

This takes place through a process called “transposition”, which essentially translates an EU directive into national legislation; each directive has a deadline for its transposition. Once a directive has been transposed into national legislation, individual rights may be asserted with respect to third parties and enforced in national courts.

For example, the 2010 Directive on Parental Leave was transposed into UK law through the Parental Leave (EU Directive) Regulations, which came into force on 8 March 2013. Individuals have recourse to national courts if these standards are not met.

View all facts

Subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter

Get a round-up of The UK in a Changing Europe’s latest analysis pieces, videos, explainers, podcasts, reports, events, infographics and more, written by the organisation’s director Anand Menon. PS his mum says it’s "quite good".

Sign up to our newsletter

View our latest newsletter