Brussels, 20 December 2006
In less than two weeks, the European Union will have 23 official languages when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU and Irish becomes an official language. To prepare for this new challenge, the European Commission has today adopted a strategy to guide its translation of written texts for 2007 and beyond. This strategy aims to better identify translation needs and providers, and enshrines multilingualism as a core element in the Commission’s policy-making and forward planning. Preparations in Bulgaria and Romania for providing translators and interpreters for the EU institutions are well-advanced.
Commenting on the upcoming enlargement, Ján Figeľ, European Commissioner in charge of Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism, stated: "The diversity of languages is our common richness and the promotion of this diversity is a clear priority for the European Commission. Next year’s 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome will also be a celebration of multilingualism, as it has been one of the core principles of the Union since its foundation." He went on to say: “As the EU is about to add 3 new official languages, I also want to welcome my future colleague, Leonard Orban, who will become Commissioner in charge of multilingualism on 1 January”.
To get ready for enlargement, the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT), which is the provider of written translations, and the Directorate-General for Interpretation (SCIC), which provides interpretation for meetings and organises conferences, have taken various preparatory measures.
On the translation side, one of these measures is recruiting staff well in advance in order to be operational in the new languages from the first day of accession. The first Bulgarian and Romanian translators in DGT were recruited as contract staff as early as January 2006 to prepare the translation infrastructure and tools. Following further selection procedures for temporary staff, there will be approximately 40 Bulgarian and 40 Romanian translators working in Brussels and Luxembourg and in the DGT Field Offices in Sofia and Bucharest.
In line with the new translation strategy, in-house translation will be supported by external resources. DGT will have a pool of around 50 Bulgarian and 50 Romanian freelance translators or agencies available to help share the workload when necessary.
Irish translation will start in DGT with a workforce of five translators. Under a derogation proposed by the Irish authorities in 2005, however, only regulations adopted jointly by the European Parliament and the Council under the co-decision procedure and correspondence with the public will be translated into Irish for a period of five years.
Regarding Maltese, a three-year derogation for translating texts into Maltese will end on 1 May 2007. From that day on, translation into Maltese will be provided in accordance with the principles of the new strategy adopted today, as for any other EU language not subject to a derogation.
The experience gained from the enlargement of 2004 was taken into account in planning the preparatory measures for the forthcoming enlargement. The new translation strategy adopted today by the Commission was also developed on the basis of the conclusions drawn from the implementation of the action plan adopted by the Commission in 2004 and confirmed in 2005. At that time, it was necessary to get the continuously increasing demand for translation under control so that multilingualism in the Commission's written communication could be guaranteed. The measures introduced then — prioritisation into core and non-core documents and restrictions on the length of documents — are still key elements of the new translation strategy. However, new elements have been introduced to meet the demands of multilingualism in the future. It is these new elements — incorporating language issues within the policy-making process of the Commission, web translation, balancing of internal and external translation work and closer cooperation between the EU institutions — that make the new strategy sustainable, able to adapt to varying levels of demand, cost-effective, and capable of integrating new official languages while guaranteeing the highest quality standards.
For 2007, the cost of translation in the Commission is estimated to be around EUR 302 million. This represents a cost to each citizen of around EUR 0.63 per year. The introduction of three new official languages will not increase the cost for the public thanks to the new translation strategy. In 2006, the overall cost of translation in all EU institutions is estimated at EUR 800 million.
Preparations on the interpretation side are well-advanced following more than ten years of Commission help with training in Bulgaria and Romania. DG Interpretation now has 3 Bulgarian and 3 Romanian interpreters recruited as temporary agents, starting in January 2006. Another 6 interpreters for each language have temporary contracts with the European Parliament. The first open competitions for interpreters for the two languages will be completed before the end of 2006.
At the moment of accession, the EU interpreting services will have access to a further pool of 39 Bulgarian and 42 Romanian accredited freelance interpreters, which compares well with the average numbers available at the 2004 enlargement.
DG Interpretation will be prepared to interpret from Irish to cover the limited demand foreseen in the Institutions it serves once the required interpreters become available, possibly by the summer of 2007. Currently, there are virtually no interpreters available who can work from Irish. The Commission's interpreting service, working hand in hand with that of the European Parliament, has set in motion a number of measures to help Ireland train interpreters for the Institutions. Three staff interpreters and one accredited freelance interpreter are currently preparing to add Irish to their language combinations.
The total cost of interpretation in the EU institutions was almost EUR 190 million in 2005, the equivalent of EUR 0.42 per citizen per year. The cost of interpretation per citizen is not expected to rise with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania and the addition of Irish.
The total cost of all translation and interpretation in all EU institutions is less than 1% of the total EU budget.
For more information:
DG Translation: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/
DG Interpretation: http://ec.europa.eu/scic/index.htm