The Third Layer of EU-law

How Delegated Acts and Implementing Acts Work – Understanding the Third Layer of EU-law

 European law is made up of several layers. The body of EU law (the acquis communautaire) consists of primary law (the Treaties agreed among EU-Member States), secondary law (mostly Regulations and Directives adopted by the European Parliament and the Council) and tertiary law: delegated acts and implementing acts adopted by the European Commission.

This sounds quite theoretical and technical. Why does it matter?

In fact, this tertiary law prepared and adopted by the Commission is often of tremendous interest for stakeholders, sometimes just as much as the law-making by the European Parliament and the Council. This is because it is not just the nitty-gritty that is regulated by delegated acts and implementing acts; crucial decisions are made by it. The issues tackled range from the labelling of energy-using devices and foodstuffs, technical specifications of machinery to admissions of medicinal products, food additives, etc.

Delegated acts and implementing acts came into being in 2009 when the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force. They replace traditional “comitology” – a system of rulemaking by the Commission developed over half a century of European integration. The new “Lisbon comitology” has reshuffled the process of decision-making entirely. That is why, especially among stakeholders, the process for the adoption of delegated acts and implementing acts is still poorly understood.

If you read in a piece of EU law that the Commission may adopt delegated acts and implementing acts that touch upon an area of interest to you (take a glance at the pending alignment proposals below*), you should keep en eye on the developments. The new system does not give the Commission a carte blanche to regulate, but there are limited means of influencing the outcome of post-legislative measures and these may not be accessible for those uninformed of the exceedingly complex processes. If you want to avoid negative “surprises” for your company or your association, you probably need specialist advice.

In the EACON team we have experienced and skilled experts who are familiar with these procedures. Through our support you may secure for yourself input into the implementation of a key Regulation or Directive by tertiary law affecting your organisation. EACON also offers a full-service package of support on EU rule-making after the legislative procedure has been closed, to safeguard your specific interests.

Please contact our Brussels office directly. We will be happy to support you.  


Pending alignment proposals*:


COM(2013) 451 of 27.6.2013



COM(2013) 452 of  27.6.2013



COM(2013) 751 of 30.10.2013



* The Commission’s work programme 2015 (http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/work-programme) aims to address the switch to delegated acts and implementing acts in a new inter-institutional agreement on better law-making. 

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