European Union official publications

EU flags in front of European Commission
EU flags in front of the headquarters of the European Commission

The British Library was a European Documentation Centre until the UK left the EU in 2020. It has acquired publications of the European Communities in print since their inception in the 1950s and will continue to do so selectively.

About the collection

The collection begins with the publications of the European Coal and Steel Community launched in 1951. Over time there have been significant changes to the number of copies received, and where they are held:

  • Our Document Supply Services based in Yorkshire were recognised as a depository and have received all EU material from 1966 to 2020 to support the inter-library loan service
  • From 1973 (when Great Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC)) to 1989, we received a second complete set of publications for reference use in the London reading rooms
  • From 1989 to 2007, we received one set only to support inter-library loan which is held by our Document Supply Services in Yorkshire
  • Between 2007 and 2020, the British Library was recognised as a European Documentation Centre (EDC) by the European Commission and once again received a second set of EU documents for reference use in London. However few were in fact supplied as EU documents transitioned to electronic publication on the Internet.
  • Supply of print publications free of charge ceased in 2020 when the UK withdrew from the European Union and the British Library ceased to be an EDC. While we intend to continue to acquire print materials selectively for display in the Social Sciences Reading Room, we will mostly rely on pointing users to full text documents online through links from records in Explore the British Library
  • Additional copies of selected EU publications have, where relevant, been purchased for the Library’s Science Technology and Industry and Business and Intellectual Property collections.

What is available online?

The most useful online index to EU information is European Sources Online, a free database produced by the University of Cardiff.

Some online archives of EU documentation include:

The European Union is moving from print to online dissemination of its documents and publications. Explore the British Library contains records of EU publications from 1952 to the present, with hyperlinks to the full text on the EU Bookshop website.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The vast majority of EU, EC, EEC and European Coal and Steel Community material can be traced using Explore the British Library. Most printed EU publications have to be requested for delivery to the Social Sciences Reading Room.

A small collection of current printed publications, arranged in subject order, is available for browsing in the Social Sciences Reading Room. This includes research reports from EU agencies on social, economic and political issues and statistical material published by Eurostat as well as the Official Journal, and Commission documents on microfiche, 1983-2002 in a cabinet in the reading room.

See a detailed description of the collections is available in our Guide to European Union Collections in the British Library (PDF format). Given the complexity of this material, please also ask staff at the Social Sciences Reference Enquiry Desk for help with finding out if we have the documents you need.

Registered readers have access to subscribed eresources on European Union law, including Eurolaw, the Lexis Library, and Westlaw UK.

What is available in other organisations?