Can someone explain to me the distinctions between the various EU legal instruments, particularly "regulation", "implementing regulation" and "directive"?
In a nutshell:
Regulations are legal diploms defined by Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). They have general application, are binding in their entirety and directly applicable in all European Union countries.
Implementing Regulations are legal acts whose validity depends on a ‘basic regulation’. While the basic regulation lays down the basic rules, the implementing regulation lays down certain technical provisions.
A Directive is an act setting out the guidelines with regard to a certain topic and which the EU Member States must follow when transposing it to its internal jurisdiction. While Regulations have a direct applicability over the Member States, Directives do not. Directives ensure that the intended result is applicable in all Member States, but these are free to determine the way to get there.