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Case law of European countries : ECLI citation

European Case Law Indentifier: national implementation

The European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) has been developed to facilitate the correct and unequivocal citation of judgments from European and national courts. A set of uniform metadata will help to improve search facilities for case law.


Before ECLI, it was difficult and time-consuming to find relevant case law ............ To overcome these differences and to facilitate easy access to - and citation of - national, foreign and European case law, the Council of the European Union invited Member States and EU institutions to introduce the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law.

Main characteristics of ECLI

ECLI is a uniform identifier that has the same recognizable format for all Member States and EU courts. It is composed of five, mandatory, elements:

  • ‘ECLI’: to identify the identifier as being a European Case Law Identifier;
  • the country code;
  • the code of the court that rendered the judgment;
  • the year the judgment was rendered;
  • an ordinal number, up to 25 alphanumeric characters, in a format that is decided upon by each Member State. Dots are allowed, but not other punctuation marks.

The elements are separated by a colon. A (non-existent) example of an ECLI could be:

ECLI:NL:HR:2009:384425, which could be decision 384425 of the Supreme Court (‘HR’) of the Netherlands (‘NL’) from the year 2009.