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EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Perform a search

Help

EUR-Lex offers several types of search:

  1. Quick search — find documents and procedures by typing keywords or numbers in a free text field.
  2. Advanced search — target your search better by selecting a collection and filling in specific criteria such as, for example, words in text/title, identifiers or dates. Once you select a collection, the form displays only the relevant search criteria.
  3. ‘Find results by’ search boxes – on the right-hand side of the homepage (start page) — search on document numbers and CELEX numbers.
  4. Expert search — build your own search query by choosing from all of the available metadata.

You can launch a quick or an advanced search from any page of the website. Note that for launching an expert search you must be signed in.

1. Quick search

  1. Enter a word , phrase or number in the search box. You can use wildcards:
    • * replaces any number of characters (e.g. transport* will find transportation, transporting, etc.)
    • ? replaces 1 character (e.g. ca?e will find case, care, cane, etc.).
    • NB: This tool always searches in the current language of the website. If that language is English, your search results will be in English only.

  2. To start the search:
    • click on the magnifying glass icon;
    • or press the Enter key on your keyboard. Once you type a term in the search box, it stays there — so you can edit your search by editing, adding or deleting terms.

When you use the quick search, keep in mind that the search engine is looking for items that have your search term in any of the following places:

Field Description

Title

Title of the document as published in the Official Journal, in the European Court Reports or as it appears in the original document.

Example: Directive 2010/30/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the indication by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by energy-related products (Text with EEA relevance )

Text

Full text of the document as published in the Official Journal, in the European Court Reports or as it appears in the original document.

CELEX number

The CELEX identifier is both a unique document identifier and a classification code, regardless of language. It is used as the basis for cross-referencing of documents in the database.

Example: 32014R1338

Directories of legislation and case-law

The directory is a numerical classification tool. It offers access to EU law by subject.

All directories of EU legislation have the same structure of 20 chapters with divisions into further sub-sections as necessary. Each chapter covers a specific area of European Union activity.

Each descriptor is composed of eight digits corresponding to the principal chapter heading and up to three subsequent subdivisions, each represented by two digits. Documents may be indexed with up to three directory codes.

There is a specific directory classification for EU case law.

Directory codes are also used for special editions of the Official Journal of the European union for indicating the number of chapter.

Example: 04.10.30.00 Fisheries/Common fisheries policy/Conservation of resources

Subject matter

Subject matter is a classification tool containing an alphabetically structured list of over 200 keywords. It is based on the subdivisions of the treaties and on the areas of activity of the institutions. The descriptors are less specific than those used in the directory code but provide a general overview of the content of the document. One document can be indexed by up to three subject-matter descriptors.

Examples: Trans-European networks; Competition; Telecommunications

Author

Name of the institution, the body or the country that produced the act.

Example: European Parliament

EuroVoc descriptors

EuroVoc is a multilingual and multidisciplinary thesaurus which covers the field of activity of the European Union. It contains keywords, organised in 21 domains and 127 sub-domains, which are used to describe the content of documents in EUR-Lex. It is used as an indexing tool for the EUR-Lex documentary collection.

Examples: astronomy; tropical plant; sugar

Title of the proposal of legislative procedures

Title of the proposal launching the legislative procedure.

Example: COM(2015)341: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council setting a framework for energy efficiency labelling and repealing Directive 2010/30/EU

Interinstitutional procedure code of legislative procedures

The procedure is identified by a code and an interinstitutional number. Read more about procedures.

Example: 2016/0351/COD (where 2016 is the year when the procedure was launched, 0351 is its interinstitutional number and COD is the code used for ordinary legislative procedures)

Alternative title for EU case-law (containing names of parties — NOM_USUEL)

Any alternative title(s) that a document might have. For documents provided by the European Court of Justice, names of parties appear in this field.

Example: Chemical GmbH/Commission

Natural number for secondary legislation

Number present in the title of the legal act (Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council).

Example: 2017/1001

Name of advocate general for EU case law

Name of the Advocate General who delivered the opinion on the court case (EU case-law).

Examples: Jacobs; Tizzano

Document type

Descriptor for the type of document.

Examples: R for Regulation, L for Directive, D for Decision,…

ECLI

The European case-law identifier is a 5-part identifier for a legal document, designed to make European case-law databases more usable. It has the following format: the identifier consists of five components, in the following order and each separated by a colon.

  1. Abbreviation ‘ECLI’.
  2. Country code (2 characters).
  3. Court code (1-7 characters).
  4. Year of the decision (4 digits).
  5. Unique identifying number (max. 25 characters, dots allowed).

Example: ECLI:EU:C:1998:27 identifies the 27th decision by the Court of Justice in 1998.

Rapporteur for EU case-law

Name of the Judge-Rapporteur for the case.

Examples: Cooke; Makarczyk

This means the search results might include documents that do not have the search term in the title or the text (but have it somewhere in the metadata). If you wish to target your search to titles and texts, use the advanced search. It offers the possibility to limit your search to titles or texts only (or both).

For a demonstration of how to search for a term, watch our tutorial.

2. Advanced search

  1. Click on the ‘advanced search’ link (under the quick-search box).
  2. Select a collection. To select more than one collection, click on ‘Choose multiple collections’. Finally, tick the box in front of each collection you want to include in your search.
  3. Fill in the search form according to your criteria.
  4. Click on the ‘Search’ button to launch the search, or press the ‘Enter’ key.
  5. To delete the criteria entered, click the ‘Clear’ button.

Tips

  • The search results are displayed and you can edit or refine your search if necessary.
  • You can narrow your search by using the date criteria. The date types available depend on the collection you select.
  • Some of the fields have a plus sign icon on the right-hand side of the search box.
    • Click on it to open a new window containing the list of available values. If the list is organised by levels (i.e. the EuroVoc Thesaurus), make sure you click on the main categories to display subcategories. Alternatively, just type the key word you are looking for in the text field and click ‘Filter’ or press the ‘Enter’ key.
    • Select values by checking (ticking) the boxes in front of them.
    • Then click on the ‘Select’ button. The descriptors or codes you have selected will appear in the search field.

Notes

If JavaScript is not enabled in your browser, click on ‘Update’ under the drop-down menu to update the search form.

For a demonstration of how to carry out an advanced search, watch our tutorial.

3. Expert search

Make complex searches by:

  1. Signing in with your My EUR-Lex account
  2. Clicking Expert Search in the top right corner of your screen.

3.1. How to perform an expert search

  1. Select your Search language .
  2. Enter your search parameters in the Expert query box , using the appropriate syntax, in 1 of 2 ways :
    • type your query manually in the box
    • use the system prompts :
    • click an item in Search fields and the system will add the relevant field to the query box, as well as displaying (on the right) information and the appropriate help.
    • Codes or full names

      By default search fields are entered in the query box as a code (e.g. TI). To display search fields with their full name (e.g. Title), select the radio button Text, below the box.

      Your query can contain a mix of codes for some fields and full names for others.

      image bright idea The search fields (and their explanation) are only visible if JavaScript is enabled in your browser.

    • You can also use the blue buttons in the toolbox to the right of the query box to add search operators, wildcards or field specifiers.
  3. See more in Syntax & search operators .


  4. Click Search .

If your syntax is invalid, the system will display an error message.

You can also manually check if your syntax is valid by pressing the Check syntax button.

image bright idea To empty all fields , click Clear .

3.2. Syntax & search operators

Your expert search query must contain at least the following 3 elements ( in this order ):

Search field (metadata) Field specifier Search term
Example: Title ~ Europa

You can create more complex queries by using search operators , like AND .

Example

Title ~ Europa AND Author = COM
Search field Field specifier Search term Search operator Search field Field specifier Search term

Operators

For more complex queries. Type them in manually or use the blue buttons on the right side of your screen.

Operator Function
AND Finds results that contain all your search terms
OR Finds results that contain at least one of your search terms
NOT Excludes search terms from your results
WHEN Searches for a subset of a larger parent group
() Groups search terms and specifies the order in which they are interpreted
NEAR10 Finds search terms within 10 words of each other
NEAR40 Finds search terms within 40 words of each other
* Substitutes for 0 to n characters
? Substitutes for a single character
< Less than
<= Less than or equal to
> Greater than
>= Greater than or equal to
<> Not equal to
= Equal to; to be used only for Coded data when searching for an exact match of the search term and result
~ Contains; to be used only for Text data when searching for documents containing your search term

Searching for specific terms

Query Finds
By default, EUR-Lex will search for all words derived from the basic root word you enter. Text ~ equal Documents containing the term 'equal' , but also e.g. 'equality' or 'equalization' in the text.
To search only for the precise term , use quotations marks Text ~ "equal" Documents containing only the term 'equal' in the text.
AND
Finds results that contain all your search terms
Text ~ personal AND data Documents containing the words 'personal' and 'data' in the text.
Title ~ "equal treatment" AND Text ~ fundamental Documents with the words "equal treatment" in the title and the words "fundamental" in the text.
Title ~ "personal data" AND Collection = LEGISLATION Legislation containing the phrase 'personal data' in the title.
OR
Finds results that contain at least 1 of your search terms:
Title ~ "equal treatment" OR Text ~ fundamental Documents that have either the words "equal treatment" in the title or the word "fundamental" in the text.
NOT
Excludes search terms from your results:
Title ~ "equal treatment" NOT Text ~ fundamental Documents that have the words "equal treatment" in the title, but which do not have the word "fundamental" in the text.
  • image bright idea You cannot combine a full text search with a search on other Search fields (metadata) by using the OR operator.
  • Title ~ "personal data" OR Collection = LEGISLATION is not a valid query
  • To combine these 2 elements of your search, you would instead have to use either the AND or NOT operators.
  • Title ~ "personal data" AND Collection = LEGISLATION is a valid query
  • Title ~ "personal data" NOT Collection = LEGISLATION is a valid query

Order of precedence of AND, OR and NOT operators

There is a fixed order of precedence between these operators.

'NOT' has precedence over 'AND', and 'AND' has precedence over 'OR'.

Example

Query Finds
Title ~ equal AND treatment NOT rights OR Text ~ fundamental Documents whose title contains:
  • both 'equal' AND 'treatment', but NOT 'rights'
  • OR
  • 'fundamental' in the text
To specify a different priority, use brackets .

BRACKETS ( )

You can use brackets to group elements in your query and specify the order in which they will be interpreted – even to change the default priority order between AND, NOT and OR.

Query Finds
NO BRACKETS Title ~ equal AND treatment OR rights Documents whose title contains:
  • both 'equal' AND 'treatment'
  • OR
  • only the word 'rights'
WITH BRACKETS ( ) Title ~ equal AND (treatment OR rights) Documents whose title contains either :
  • 'equal' and 'treatment'
  • OR
  • 'equal' and 'rights'

WHEN

Use this to find a subset of a larger parent group. WHEN functions similarly to AND, but is more restrictive.

Example

Query Finds
Legal_basis = 32012R1151 WHEN Legal_basis_paragraph = 3 Documents:
  • whose legal basis is the document with CELEX number 32012R1151, and
  • which are based on paragraph 3 of that document.

NEAR10

Finds terms within 10 words of a specified other term.

Example

Query Finds
Text ~ "transport" NEAR10 "perishable" Documents containing the words 'transport' and 'perishable' within 10 words of each other (regardless of sentences and paragraphs).

NEAR40

Fuctions as NEAR10 but within 40 words of a specified term .

image bright idea You can only use NEAR10 and NEAR40 for text searches .

WILDCARDS (* and ?)

Query Finds
* Substitutes for 0 to n characters expe* will find expert , expenditure , expectation , etc.
? Substitutes for a single character ca?e will find case , care , cane , etc.

image bright idea Wildcards cannot be used to begin a search term.
Text ~ *tation is not a valid query.

RANGES

To enter a range of values for dates or numbers, use the following operators:

Query Finds
< (less than) For dates, this means "before" e.g. Date_of_publication < 01/01/2015
<= (less than or equal to)
> (greater than)
>= (greater than or equal to)
<> (not equal to)

EQUALS (=)

Finds results that match your search term exactly . The operator is automatically added to the appropriate fields when chosen from Search fields .

image bright idea Note: the equals operator cannot be used with text data .

E.g. fields for dates or numbers will return results for that exact date or number.

Query Finds
Date_of_publication = 16/11/2010 Documents published on 16/11/2010 only.

TILDE (~)

Finds all texts containing the search term you enter.

Query Finds
Title ~ Commission Documents whose title contains the word 'Commission'.

3.3. Search fields

The search fields are displayed below the expert search box , on the left side.

These are all the fields you can search on , grouped into categories. By default only the top levels are shown. Click on them to display or hide the sub-levels.

3.4. Help for the search fields

When you click an item in the list of search fields, the system displays (to the right of the list) explanations, examples and tips on how to use that field:

Values (list form)

For some types of fields (e.g. Documents –> Coded data –> Classifications –> Subject_matter (CT) ), the system displays a list of possible values that you can select for your search (check the box in front of your desired value(s) and click the Add to query button).

To find a specific value – type it in the Filter box at the top of the list and click the Filter button.

Values (tree form)

Some values are displayed in tree form (e.g. Documents –> Coded data –> Classifications –> EUROVOC_descriptor (DC) ).

Click maximize icon to expand an item and check the box in front of your desired value(s) to select it ( you can select multiple values ).

To find a specific value – type it in the Filter box at the top of the list and click the Filter button.

Click the Add to query button ( multiple values will be separated by 'OR' ).

Search by date

Search by an exact date or a range of dates:

  1. Select a date-related field (e.g. Documents –> Coded data – > Date – > Date_of_publication) and select from the dropdown on the right either:
    1. Exact date
    2. Range of date
  2. Type the dates manually (DD/MM/YYYY) or use the calendar button calendar icon .
  3. Click the Add to query button.

Relationships between documents

To search for documents by relationship (e.g. find a document amended by another, or a document affected by a certain case):

1. Click Documents –> Coded data –> Relationship between documents .
2. Click a type of relationship, e.g. Amended_by (MD) .
3. On the right you will see:
  • a field for the CELEX number
  • image bright idea If the CELEX number contains brackets, please put it in quotation marks (e.g. "42000A0922(02)" .

  • in some cases also a dropdown for the Primary role , where you can be much more specific about the relationship.
4. Click one of the values in the results list.
5. Click the Add to query button.
image bright idea The fields for Legal Basis allow you to specify your search on a specific article, paragraph or even subparagraph .

Comments on the relationships between documents

You can also search on the comments made to relationships between documents. Examples of fields with comments on relationships between documents include: Documents –> Coded data –> Relationship between documents –> Case_affecting (AJ); Instruments_cited (CI); or Legal_basis (LB) .


To search on comments made on relationships between documents see procedure described above in "Relationships between documents".

3.5. Personalise your search results

At the bottom of the expert search page, you can use the Change displayed metadata button to change how your results are displayed.

Highlighting words in your results – Text ZOOM

To highlight – in your results list – words from any text fields you are searching with:

  1. Click Text ZOOM (under Metadata to display ).
  2. Select the number of words to be to be displayed before/after your search terms.

To apply all these changes to your search results, click Apply .