A European directive is a legislative act published by the European Commission that lays down the protection and administrative requirements for goods produced or imported into the EU.

It is important to make a difference between EU directives and EU regulations. Each EU member state is free to decide how to translate the EU directives into their national laws, while the EU regulations have a legal binding force throughout every EU member state and enter into force on a set date in all of the EU member states.

In the context of CE marking, there are more than twenty EU directives and regulations that cover a massive range of products, from electrical equipment to medical devices to fertilisers to toys. Any product falling within the scope of at least one of the EU directives and regulations must comply with its requirements before being placed on the Union's single market.