Is EU Law Common Law or Civil Law?

EU law is neither common law nor civil law but a mixture of different legal systems. It is a unique legal system that combines elements of civil law and common law, so it is considered a mixed legal system because it draws on the legal traditions and systems of its member states, which are predominantly based on civil law, while also incorporating common law principles and practices.

One of the main reasons why the EU legal system is considered a mixed legal system is because it is built upon a foundation of civil law. Civil law is a legal system that is based on codified laws and emphasises the role of judges in interpreting and applying those laws. The EU legal system has its roots in the legal systems of the member states, which are predominantly based on civil law. This is reflected in the EU treaties, directives, and regulations, which are codified laws that provide legal certainty and predictability.

However, the EU legal system also incorporates common law principles and practices. Common law is a legal system that is based on judge-made law and emphasises the role of precedent in guiding legal decisions. For example, the principle of direct effect was established in Flaminio Costa v ENEL (1964) while the principle of indirect effect was established in Von Colson v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen (1984).

While the EU legal system does not rely on precedent to the same extent as common law systems, it does draw on common law principles in certain areas of law, such as competition law and intellectual property law. This has led to the development of a unique body of EU case law that combines civil law and common law concepts.

Furthermore, the EU legal system is also influenced by international law, which is a common law tradition. EU law incorporates principles and rules from international treaties and conventions, such as the European Convention on Human Rights. These international legal instruments have a significant impact on EU law, and the EU legal system is designed to promote compliance with international law principles and standards.

Another reason why the EU legal system is considered a mixed legal system is because it is a hybrid system that has evolved over time through the interaction of different legal traditions and legal systems. The EU legal system has developed its own unique characteristics, such as the principle of direct effect, which allows individuals to enforce their rights under EU law in national courts, and the principle of supremacy, which means that EU law takes precedence over conflicting national laws.

In conclusion, the EU legal system is a mixed legal system that combines elements of civil law, common law, and international law. This hybrid system has evolved over time through the interaction of different legal traditions and legal systems, and has created a unique body of law that is distinct from the legal systems of the member states. The EU legal system is characterised by legal certainty, predictability, and a commitment to promoting social progress and better standards of life for all citizens of the EU.
Back to blog
UOL Case Bank

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.