Review of European Administrative Law (REALaw)

Guidance documents of the European Commission: a typology to trace the effects in the national legal order

Clara van Dam

In the European Union the Member States are primarily responsible for the implementation of the EU legal framework. In many policy areas, the European Commission issues non legally binding guidance documents that aim to assist the Member States in the implementation process. These guidance documents take various forms, such as working documents, guidelines, interpretative notes, letters or Communications.

This article introduces five types of guidance provisions that can be discerned in the text of the guidance documents of the European Commission. The five types of guidance are 1) interpretative guidance, 2) implementing guidance, 3) explanatory guidance, 4) technical guidance and 5) the dissemination of good practices.

It is argued that this typology of guidance provisions could serve as an analytical framework to study the practical and legal effects of the use of guidance documents in the national legal order. Further research is needed to find out whether different types of guidance generate different practical and/or legal consequences in practice.

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