The “ace of interpreters” was how Walter Hallstein introduced David Reinert to Teddy Kennedy, some few years after the signature of the Treaty of Rome. David had joined the Commission soon after being the interpreter in the Italian booth at the signature. Having worked already for Konrad Adenauer before Rome, he received a phone call two days before the signature to know could he help. He went to Rome willingly, knowing it was to be an occasion, but not realising his future was being unveiled before him.
He remembers the day well – it was raining in Rome and quite a crowd had gathered under their umbrellas outside the Campidoglio to see what was happening at this historic event. They could listen to the proceedings live which were broadcast by loudspeakers. “What the crowd heard were not the original speeches of the heads of government and the Mayor of Rome, but the Italian interpretation, that is, myself, since I was the only interpreter in the Italian booth”.
The interpretation was also broadcast by the Italian radio and so people could tune in all over Italy. Apparently some people in a maternity clinic in the south were listening at the same time as a baby girl was being born. She was called Europa, baptized by our Italian interpreter’s voice! “I’ve no idea what became of her, I can only dream: a woman of fifty today, probably married, with children called….what?”, concluded David.
David went to the great reception afterwards but he recalls that he had no black tie – he quickly purchased one locally. It was to come in useful during a long 30-year career accompanying Commissioners and Ministers throughout the world.
Becoming an official interpreter in February 1959, he soon found himself interpreting at the Commission's weekly meetings, travelling with Commission Presidents to G7 and G8 Summits and EU/US joint meetings. He remembers meeting President Nixon with Franco Malfatti. “On that occasion we stayed in Blair House, reserved for Presidential visitors, opposite the White House. They sent a large black limousine to collect us for the meeting – we travelled about 100 yards in it. I felt like a film star!”
He very much enjoyed his job as an interpreter in the Commission. He was a hands-on person, preferring to interpret at meetings than working as an administrator. Inevitably, the administration interfered and he finished his career as acting Director of the conference service. “When I started, we had one or two meetings or conferences a week. By 1989, we were up to 50 a day. The job challenge had changed. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed working in a booth. I was particularly touched when President Delors thanked me publicly during my final task as an interpreter at the Commission weekly meeting. Our work is sometimes taken for granted but the President showed his appreciation in a very personal way”.
Not content to sit still at home and enjoy his many pet animals and pension, David even now volunteers to do some freelance work and act in emergencies. He is still contributing to the evolution of the Treaty, some 50 years later.