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The acts of the Council of the European Union can have different forms: regulations[?], directives, decisions[?], recommendations and opinions[?]. A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods. (art. 249 ex.189). In other terms, the directive fixes the objectives to be pursued by the Member States, but leaves freedom of choice for the ways of obtaining them (maintaining an obligation of result).

In practice, with the exception of directives related to the common agricultural policy[?] directives are 'addressed' to all member states, and specify a date by which the states must have put the directive into effect. States frequently miss these deadlines, and where the deadlines are missed badly, the European Commission can and does commence proceedings in the European Court of Justice against the countries involved.

How each country puts the directive into effect depends on their legal structure, and may not be constant. For example, in the UK most directives are brought in via statutory instruments[?] but some directives create such major changes to the law that Parliament passes a separate Act to incorporate the changes.

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