European Legislation Identifier (ELI)

Council conclusions inviting the introduction of the European Legislation Identifier (ELI)

Legislation is widely available online and accessible in various digital formats. However, the way in which legal information is organised and classified varies across different legal systems. The conclusions address this issue by endorsing the European Legislation Identifier (ELI), an initiative to ensure that citizens and legal professionals get improved access to information on legislation, be it at regional, national or EU level.

ELI makes it easier to access and share this information, thus contributing to the EU’s common area of freedom, security and justice.


The conclusions invite EU countries to adopt the ELI system, so that information on EU and national legislation is described in a harmonised way across legislation systems. This will improve discovery, access and reuse of information about legislation for citizens and professional users.

How does ELI work?

ELI is based on:

the use of a unique Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) to identify a web location for legal information;
a set of structured metadata used to describe EU and national legal information;
the use of a common language to exchange legal information in machine-readable formats for better reuse*.
The ELI system was developed to standardise legal communication to promote interchange and to enhance interoperability between legal information systems at EU and national level, while maintaining the specificities of each country’s legal and legislative system.

What should EU countries do in order to introduce ELI?

The introduction of ELI is optional, voluntary and gradual. In order to adopt ELI, legislation publishers should:

assign ELI identifiers and metadata to their legislation;
publish the ELI metadata assigned to their legislation in a specific format.
ELI implementers are invited to appoint a national ELI coordinator and to share information on their respective ELI implementations. This information is to be made publicly available on the ELI website hosted in the EUR-Lex portal:

2017 Council conclusions

In November 2017, the Council adopted a new set of conclusions on the ELI building on the conclusions of 2012.

These conclusions provide a progress report on the ELI initiative:

the ELI system has been deployed in a number of national legislation publishing systems,
ELI has been applied to EU legislation which is published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the EUR-Lex portal operated by the Publications Office of the EU,
the Publications Office, acting in accordance with Decision 2009/496/EC, has integrated ELI into the EUR-Lex portal. The Publications Office hosts and maintains on its EUR-Lex portal a register of national ELI coordinators, information on the format and use of ELI in the participating countries, and other useful documentation.

The conclusions call on the Council working party on e-law, to take a series of measures aimed at driving forward the ELI system and in particular on:

the ELI Task Force (TF) to define ELI-related specifications and ensure their future development;
the expert group of the working party on e-Law on ELI to drive forward this initiative by:
allowing EU countries to share experiences and good practice on the deployment of ELI;
inform EU countries about the work of the ELI TF;
report to the working party on e-Law EU countries’ concerns and needs in the light of ELI;
report the content of the meetings to the working party on e-Law.

An annex contains the main elements of information and references:

on national implementation;
elements of ELI;
ELI reference sites.


Reuse: the possibility for citizens and companies to reuse material free of charge, even for commercial purposes, and without having to request permission to do so. The information can be reproduced, adapted, translated, etc. This reuse may be subject to conditions. For example, the European Commission’s general reuse policy requires those who reuse information to acknowledge its source and to ensure that its original meaning is not distorted. There are, however, certain exceptions to the Commission’s general reuse policy such as logos, software, etc.


Council conclusions inviting the introduction of the European Legislation Identifier (ELI) (OJ C 325, 26.10.2012, pp. 3-11)

Council conclusions of 6 November 2017 on the European Legislation Identifier (OJ C 441, 22.12.2017, pp. 8-12)

Decision 2009/496/EC, Euratom of the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 26 June 2009 on the organisation and operation of the Publications Office of the European Union (OJ L 168, 30.6.2009, pp. 41-47)

Successive amendments to Decision 2009/496/EC, Euratom have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

European Case Law Identifier

2019-2023 Action Plan European e-Justice

Conclusions inviting the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law

Article 67 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union


The 2019-2023 Action Plan on European e-Justice builds upon the EU’s e-Justice action plan 2014-2018 which has now ended. Both reflect the importance of cross-border access to national case law*, the need for standardisation and decentralised technology.

The conclusions called for the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and of a minimum set of uniform metadata* for case law.

The conclusions are based on Article 67(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This article states that the EU shall be an area of freedom, security and justice with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the EU countries.


Having access to case law is vitally important for the rule of law — one of the key values of the EU, as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. This access:

ensures the scrutiny of judiciary by the public;
helps to make the judiciary more transparent; and
keeps the public informed as to developments in the law.

The case law of national courts is a significant source of information on EU countries’ legal systems but also on EU law. In addition to problems relating to language, the lack of uniform case law identifiers has been an obstacle to cross-border research on legal questions. Citizens, legal professionals and national authorities therefore needed a tool allowing national and EU case law to be easily searched and then clearly cited.

The purpose of this was not to create a centralised European database on national case law. Instead, a common system for the identification and for the metadata of case law has been set in place.

The conclusions therefore called on EU countries to establish on a voluntary basis:

a minimum set of uniform metadata: the Council of the EU has drawn up a list of metadata, such as full name of the court, the country in which the court or tribunal is seated and the date of the decision, which must accompany each document which is an instance of a judgment;
the ECLI: this uniform identifier enabling judicial decisions to be identified more easily comprises 5 mandatory elements
‘ECLI’: to identify the identifier as being a European Case Law Identifier;
the country code;
the code of the court that gave the judgment;
the year the judgment was given;
a number, up to 25 alphanumeric characters, in a format that is decided upon by each EU country;
colons (:) are used to separate these elements. No other punctuation marks are allowed.
Each participating EU country using ECLI has to appoint a governmental or judicial organisation as their national ECLI Coordinator. Courts and tribunals within one country may join the system at any time. The ECLI has also been implemented by the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office and by the Court of Justice of the European Union (which also acts as ECLI coordinator for the EU). A European identifier is assigned to all judgments which are given, not only to those published on the internet.

The benefits of ECLI include:

easier citation of case law and less time spent by legal professionals and academics on researching it;
a multilingual ECLI search engine which allows users to find judicial decisions from the databases of those case law publishers who have implemented the ECLI standard and provided access to their data;
better application of EU law by national judges because they can more easily find relevant case law;
strengthened mutual understanding among the legal communities of the EU countries.
In December 2018, the Council adopted the strategy and action plan to develop e-justice which will run for the 2019-2023 period. Work related to e-justice will focus on 3 objectives:

improving access to information in the area of justice;
continuing the digitalisation of judicial and extrajudicial proceedings to offer easier and faster access to court decisions; and
ensuring the technical implementation and management of the national e-justice systems allowing interconnection and interoperability between EU countries’ systems.


Information about ECLI can be found on the European e-Justice portal. The portal provides details about the format and use of the identifier, as well as on the metadata and the national coordinators. It also enables access to an ECLI search interface. This interface is not intended to be a database at European level but simply enables a search to be carried out, using the ECLI and certain metadata, of the interconnected national databases and websites.


Case law: all of the judicial decisions relating to a given judicial question.
Metadata: in information technology, this relates to data which describes other data, for example by providing information on the date of publication or on the author of the data. Therefore metadata make it easier to consult information. They also improve the relevance of the results displayed by search engines.


2019-2023 Action Plan European e-Justice (OJ C 96, 13.3.2019, pp. 9-32)

Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Three — Union policies and internal actions — Title V — Area of freedom, security and justice — Chapter 1 — General provisions — Article 67 (ex Article 61 TEC and ex Article 29 TEU) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 73)

Council conclusions inviting the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law (OJ C 127, 29.4.2011, pp.1-7)

2019-2023 Strategy on e-Justice (OJ C 96, 13.3.2019, pp. 3-8)

Multiannual European e-Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 (OJ C 182, 14.6.2014, pp. 2-13)

Share this article