How the European Union works

The European Union (EU) gives instructions by which it regulates the national laws of the member states. There are four types of instructions:regulation, directive, decision and recommendation. The EU’s regulations, directives and decisions have greater legal force than the member state’s own laws and decisions. All member states must follow them.


The most powerful of the instructions is the regulation. It takes effect in every member state as it stands.


Photo: European Parliamen
Information Office in Finland

A directive is an instruction that each member state must follow when making their own laws. In other words, directives govern national legislation. Every member state may itself choose the way how the instructions in the directive are implemented. Directives are designed to ensure standard quality and safety of products in all EU member states.

EU directives affect the lives of people in Europe in many ways. Especially, the the farmers have felt this.

The EU pays farmers support and subsidies and that is why it controls very closely how the  farms are managed.


Decisions are used to clarify regulations and directives. Often decisions only apply to one or some member states.


Recommendations are the least binding of the instructions. The member states do not have to follow them. The purpose of the voluntary recommendation is to persuade countries to move in the same direction.