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A directive is a legal act adopted by the EU institutions addressed to the EU Member States and, as laid down in Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, is binding as to the result to be achieved. A directive is part of the EU’s secondary law, the body of law that derives from the principles and objectives set out in the EU treaties (primary law).

The national authorities of each EU country to which the directive is addressed determine the form and the methods they use to incorporate the directive into their national law (formally known as ‘transposition’). Generally, this needs to be done within 2 years of the directive’s adoption.

To take effect, national measures must achieve the objectives set by the directive. National authorities must communicate the measures they adopt to the European Commission.

Directives may set minimum standards, often in recognition of the fact that the legal systems in some Member States have already set higher standards. In this case, Member States have the right to set higher standards than those set in the directive.

In other instances directives set uniform harmonisation limits. This means that Member States may not introduce rules that are stricter than those set in the directive.

When a Member State does not transpose a directive into its national law, the Commission may initiate infringement proceedings and bring proceedings against the country before the Court of Justice of the European Union.