Acquis communautaire

(Photo: European Commission)

Acquis communautaire

The  "acquis communautaire"is a very important concept in the European Union. It covers all treaties, EU legislation, international agreements, standards, court verdicts, fundamental rights provisions  and horizontal principles in the treaties such  as equality and non-discrimination. In short: EU-law.


All member states and their citizens must obey the Acquis and all candidate countries must accept the full Acquis to become a member of the European Union. The complete body of the EU Acquis is composed of more than 108,000 documents.


There is no official number of valid EU legal acts. The full picture may only be assembled by bringing together different pieces of information from different sources. We have partly done that and you can see the result under Number of Laws

The full Acquis is difficult to define. It can be described as the total body of European Union law applicable in the EU. It is constantly evolving and comprises:   

·        The content, principles and political objectives of the Treaties 

·        Legislation adopted pursuant to the Treaties and the case law of the Court of Justice 

·        Standards adopted and referred to in EU legislation and international agreements

·        Declarations and resolutions adopted by the Union

·        Instruments under the Common Foreign and Security Policy

·        Instruments under Justice and Home Affairs

·        International agreements concluded by the Community and those entered into by the member states themselves within the sphere of the Union's activities. 


Thus it includes all treaties, all EU legislation valid today, all EU Court verdicts, all types of decisons arising  from the Foreign and Security Policy and Justice and Home Affairs provisions of the Treaties, as well as so-called soft law.   


The Acquis Communautaire is translated into the official languages of the European Union.


The concept of the Acquis Commaunautaire includes the primacy of EU law and all other principles developed by the Court of Justice, partly through the Court's significant  legal activismMember states are also bound to accept future majority decisions and future verdicts from the EU Court.   


The primacy of EU law over national law was explicitly declared in the rejected EU Constitution Article I-6. This article was deleted in the Lisbon Treaty. Instead, it was inserted as a footnote with the same content and with a specific reference to the Court verdicts establishing the primacy of EU law. It can now be found in Declaration Number 17 attached to the Lisbon Treaty.  


Adoption and implementation of the Acquis are the basis of the accession negotiations for new EU memmber states. This principle is included in the Lisbon Treaty. The different areas for which changes are needed in order to meet the accession conditions are called "chapters of the Acquis".   


The candidate member countries are required to adapt their administrative and institutional infrastructures and to bring their national legislation in line with Community legislation in the areas of the different chapters. These are reviewed during the screening of the Acquis and are evaluated regularly up until the time each chapter is closed.   


The Acquis concept is crucial to understanding the EU and the enlargement and constitutional processes it involves.   



See also Number of laws

Sources and scope of Community law