“The European Commission today proposed giving the electronic edition of the European Union’s Official Journal legal status. At the moment, only the printed edition is legally valid. With this proposal, EU citizens and businesses across Europe will have more legal certainty and save time and money. The proposal follows a trend at national level where all EU countries have electronic official journals, more than half of which have full legal status. The proposal needs unanimous support from the Council and consent of the European Parliament before it takes effect.
“This proposal provides for simple, easy and reliable access to EU law online. In times of crisis, I warmly welcome this move to make life easier and less expensive for businesses and citizens,” Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, who is in charge of relations with the Publications Office, said.
The Official Journal (OJ) was created in 1952 for the then European Coal and Steel Community. It is how the EU keeps its records: only legal acts published in the Official Journal are binding. Currently, and despite the fact that a majority of European citizens and businesses mainly consult the online version, only the paper version of the Official Journal is legally valid. What this means is that no decision taken by the Commission can be enforced based on the electronic version. If citizens want to claim a right based on what is published in the Official Journal (such as the EU Treaties) they currently need to obtain – at cost – a copy of the print version. The Commission proposes to change this by giving legal status to the electronic edition of the Official Journal. The proposal thus broadens access and ensures that citizens’ right to make themselves acquainted with EU law is enforced.
The proposal will not only benefit businesses and professionals in the field of law, but will also serve citizens who want to be informed from a reliable source about the rights they benefit from under EU law.
Currently, consultation of the paper version of the Official Journal costs about €1,000 a year per subscription. The Commission is proposing to give free and direct access to the legally valid Official Journal online, making everyone’s lives a little easier. Legal acts passed by the EU will be instantly accessible to all. At the same time, electronic publication will ease the search of data, by minimising the time and effort citizens’ need to put into searching for information.
The proposal needs to be approved unanimously by the Council after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
This proposal is part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to provide a one-stop-shop for access to EU law through the enhanced EUR-Lex portal that will be launched in the beginning of 2012.
More information on the Official Journal of the European Union:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Original press release here.