Member States to pay for translations after enlargement?

The Danish Presidency is drafting plans to force EU Member States to pay for interpreters if they want to use their own language following the enlargement in 2004.

According to the Financial Times, the proposal aims at cutting the cost of translations after 10 more Member States join the current 15 in 2004 and the number of official languages rises from 11 to 20. Under one proposal, each Member State would be charged for the use of their native language. The payment system would not apply to ministerial meetings where full interpreting facilities for all official languages will be available. All legislative documents would still be translated into all official languages.

The current proposals only concern the Council, but similar plans could be drawn for the Commission and the European Parliament. The plans should be finalised before the Copenhagen European Council on 12-13 December 2002.

The Commission’s Translation Service translated more than 1.3 million pages in the year 2000. It has a staff of some 1300 translators, and also sends out more than 20 per cent of its work to free-lance translators. The EU’s Joint Interpreting and Conference Service now provides interpretation for the approximately 11,000 meetings held each year by the Commission, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, as well as most other EU bodies. It employs some 700 interpreters each day.

Translators, interpreters and support staff represent some 8 per cent of Commission’s staff (Commission’s staff totals 24,600 officials). The cost of operating in the 11 official languages, taking all the EU Institutions together, is nearly 800 million euro per year.


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