Features - Guide to European Legal Databases, Update 3

By Mirela Roznovschi, Published on July 1, 1999

The most recent version of this article is available at http://www.llrx.com/features/europenew.htm.  You will be automatically redirected to that page shortly.

Mirela Roznovschi is the Reference Librarian for International and Foreign Law at New York University School of Law Library. She holds a M.A. from the University of Bucharest (Romania), a M.L.S. from Pratt Institute, and a Certificate in Internet Technologies from New York University. Her activities include monitoring and evaluating foreign and international legal databases on the Internet, training law faculty and students to use the Internet for legal research, advising developing democracies on the building of electronic law libraries, and training librarians from developing democracies. She is in charge of the library's home page, Guide to International and Foreign Law Databases. She also serves as a member of the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals Advisory Committee.

Editor's note:  This article is an update to the Update to Guide to European Legal Databases (posted November 1, 1998).  There are numerous additions, changes for some Web site addresses, as well as some deletions.  These additions and changes are indicated by        (yellow background color) for easy identification.

A more current version of this article has been published at http://www.llrx.com/features/europe4.htm.

Table of Contents

Search Engines
Search Tips
Indices, Guides, Journals, Dictionaries, Library Catalogs
European Legal Databases on the Internet
Main jurisdictions (selective):
Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Denmark, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kyrgyz Republic, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine
Transnational/International Organizations
A. Council of Europe
B. European Union
I. Institutions
II. Databases
III. Indexes, Directories, Electronic Publications


In the last two years, European legal databases in HTML format have emerged with a speed that has sometimes exceeded our updating tools. Many of them brought to the world's legal community a great amount of reliable primary and secondary sources. In this article, I will focus on databases in HTML format using Internet as a primary and unique carrier. Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw's European legal databases are not reviewed, even though recently both providers launched Internet interfaces.

In the new electronic environment, librarians looking for European country materials (the majority civil law systems) need to be familiar not only with what information is available online, but also how to use the tools of legal research in the Internet context for locating substantive law efficiently. They also have to think about the reference question within a legal and cultural context in which legal concepts may have different meanings in comparison with the common law system.

European legal databases are mostly in vernacular, so we have to deal not only with foreign languages but also with nuances in different legal systems and cultures. The legal researcher has to know where and how to go online (depending on the reference question), decide what type of law or legal document he/she may want to find, and which is the better searching tool to use. Moreover, to be able to determine the path to follow in the context of a reference question, the searcher needs to understand the jurisdictional research territory, recognize patterns of research on the Internet, and its special syntax and concepts. The goal is to develop a personal research style which will reflect his/her expertise, practice and area of interest, and will be flexible and broad enough to develop in a timely manner a strategy for any research question.

Search Engines

1. Search Engines for International and Foreign Law

Infoseek is still in my opinion the most powerful, accurate and current search engine in finding the precise answer to a legal query. Infoseek allows the researcher to narrow the search using quotes, commas, truncation, boolean operators, plus (+) and minus (-) signs to require or exclude a word, and the pipe (|) to search a certain set of results only. Using quotes whenever you search for a concept or for a title, the needed document will be in the first five entries (which doesn't happen with AltaVista, HotBot, LawCrawler, etc. using the same search strategy). Even if you are unsure about the document's name, good results can be obtained using boolean operators and narrowing the reasults as many times as needed. Infoseek also provides the capability to search in vernacular through interfaces for Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden, the Nederlands.

AltaVista allows searching in 25 languages, but with law relevance. AltaVista ranks behind the following two search engines.

FindLaw is actually the LawCrawler Web search engine and LawCrawler "powered by Alta Vista" (Digital Equipment Corporation) under license. FindLaw narrows from the onset of the query according to the country or the world region. To search for Europe or a European country, go to "Main Index: Foreign & International Resources," and choose the region and then the country (Individual Country Search Pages). FindLaw refines the query with boolean and proximity operators, and other property value queries that include information about the file size and an abstract.

LawRunner (Internet Legal Resource Guide) is an index allowing search by country (even with the suffixes of particular countries i.e., .fr for France) using the same AltaVista search engine. ILRG uses boolean operators and an "exclude" field. Running a search through FindLaw and LawRunner, you may discover that both retrieve almost the same URLs in the same order. It is not coincidental as long as they use the same search engine.

HotBot has improved dramatically in the last year. For foreign law research I would rank it as the second best search engine, with the first being Infoseek.  Running the same query ("Corte di Cassazione"-- Italian Supreme Court) through search engines already mentioned, and judging the quality of the retrieved records according to the relevance of the first five entries I received the following results: Infoseek had the best relevance in the first five hits; HotBot had almost the same good relevance; AltaVista, FindLaw, LawRunner had non relevant first five entries).

The Northern Light search engine uses patent-pending classification intelligence and provides integrated access to over 5,000 full-text publications. Free index of many legal journals found in Index to Legal Periodicals are available. The full text of articles is delievered for a modest price. This search engine organizes the results into Custom Search Folders so the users don’t have to waste time weeding through useless information. Citation, summaries and Web results are free. The search engines retrieves the best result in the five hits such as Infoseek and HotBot.

2. Database Search Engines

Any serious and reliable database has its own search engine. If a search engine browsing the entire Web locates the needed database, the database search engine will then logically locate relevant documents. Almost any database search engine has its own configuration. Rambler, the Russian search engine, can search using Latin characters in English and Russian. EUROPA, a mega database, has many search engines with a specific configuration for every database. There are also search engines specialized in more than one jurisdiction, utilizing the same language such as the French search engines called "Francophone search engines."  Ecila-Moteur de Recherche; Francité; MégaFrancité; Lokace; Nomade. Derecho is a great index but mainly an excellent search engine for Spanish law only.

Search Tips

The best service for translating online legal concepts into European Union languages is "Eurodicautom, a translator's best friend on the web," which has also an excellent definition feature. Do not rely on AltaVista online translations. These are word by word translations without any meaning.

Indices, Guides, Journals, Dictionaries, Library Catalogs

Notable in this category are Hieros Gamos Guide to International Law and the Meta-Index for Legal ResearchYahoo, one of the best World Wide Web guides; Chicago Kent Lawlinks Index; and Index of Law Related Meta Indexes. I would also recommend using The World List: Non-US Law Related Resources for the Internet Users by Makoto Ibusuki, a guide relating to the law and government of over 60 countries; Laws of Europe, indexed by Bradley J. Hillis; The Library of Congress GLIN Home Page with reputable developments on foreign jurisdictions; Foreign Laws by Subject at Washburn University; Guide to International and Foreign Legal Databases at New York University Law Library; ELSweb -- a project of the European Law School at Maastricht University in the Netherlands -- an index of legal resources (with descriptions) for every European Union country.

There are also guides to legal resources such as the Law on the Internet Booklist (International) by the American Bar Association, which recommends guides to legal resources on the Internet published in different countries (Italy, U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, etc.) and the American Society of International Law Guide to Electronic Resources. Great information in the field is  also published by the followinng periodicals:  Europe, Database, Searcher, Law Library Journal, the American Society of International Law Newsletter, the AALL FCIL Newsletter and the European Journal of International Law.

Dictionaries -- 50 dictionaries can be found at A Web of Online Dictionaries. Eurodicautom (dictionary for EU legislation) is a friendly web query system for words/phrases/abbreviations in any official EU language and obtaining the legal equivalent in another. French Private Law Dictionary (DICTIONNAIRE DU DROIT PRIVÉ), by Serge Braudo, is also an excellent tool for French legal research.

Libraries -- "Gabriel" Gateway to Europe's National Libraries is the National Union Catalogues maintained by Europe's National Libraries (Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, England, etc). Other gates to European catalogs are The British Library and HYTELNET Library Catalogs maintained by Peter Scot.

What follows is a guide to the most requesteted European legal topics and jurisdictions, updated as of May 1999. In the constatnly changing world of legal databases, we can expect URL modifications, migrations from one database to another, database mergers, and so on. To accommodate this reality, effective legal researchers have to develop good search skills and a knowledge of database reliability. But this is another story, which may have as a starting point the evaluation forms for foreign and international databases I and II, which I designed and use in my daily work

European Databases on the Internet




Main Jurisdictions

(Selective; For comprehensive information look at my Guide to International and Foreign Legal Databases)











Kyrgyz Republic


The Netherlands









Transnational/International Organizations (Council of Europe and The European Union)

A. Council of Europe

B. The European Union

I. Institutions

II. Databases

III. Indexes, Directories, Electronic Publications