Easier access to European legislation with ELI

There are great divergences in legislation across the European Union and between the Union and the Member States. Accordingly, it is imperative constantly to improve the access to information about national and European legislation. As part of the introduction of a European area of freedom, security and justice, ELI offers easy and rapid access to legislation. The Council conclusions (2012/C 325/02) call for the introduction of the European Legislation Identifier (ELI) as a means of providing access to information about the EU and Member State legal systems.

What is the role of ELI?

The exchange of legal information across the European Union has grown considerably. To some extent this is facilitated by the access to online information, but the exchange is highly limited by the existing differences in the various legal systems at national and European levels. Moreover, there are technical differences between the legal information systems in the European Union and the Member States. The introduction of ELI will provide harmonised and stable referencing of European and Member State legislation and a set of harmonised metadata. Such a platform will provide faster and more efficient search capabilities and develop more intelligent expert applications for displaying legal information across Europe.

How does ELI work?

ELI is based on the use of Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) and a set of structured metadata for referencing European and national legislation. In order to take advantage of the semantic web, ELI is based on a common ontology describing the structured metadata. The specification of ELI is designed to ELI-fy existing legal information systems without making any changes to the existing system. Accordingly, the use and functionality of www.retsinformation.dk has not been changed in connection with the implementation in Denmark, for which reason that system can be used as it is.

What are the requirements for implementing ELI?

The implementation of ELI is optional. Member States, the European Union and third countries for that matter can freely decide to implement the identifier and can do so at the most expedient pace. ELI has already been or will soon be implemented in several Member States and at European level. On the implementation of ELI, it is required that

  • legislation published in official legal information systems operated by the Member States must have a unique ELI URI;
  • legislation must have unique ELI metadata which are mandatory to a limited extent;
  • metadata must be described in accordance with ELI ontology and authority tables; and
  • a national ELI coordinator is appointed. The responsibilities of the coordinator will include passing on information about ELI URIs, metadata, authority tables and ontology to the EUR-Lex portal.