Parliament in drive to maximise limited language resources

An EP committee has adopted recommendations to ensure a cost-effective multilingual Europe after enlargement. Meanwhile the Commission has included the languages of the ten new Member States in its Europa website.

A report on transitional arrangements required to safeguard the status of multilingualism in the European Parliament has been approved by the Constitutional Affairs committee. The report was commissioned by the Parliament's Bureau due to the "impossibilité matérielle" facing the European institutions in fully implementing the general principle of full multilingualism. This can be roughly interpreted as a modest budget, a shortage of interpreters (especially for Maltese and Latvian) and a lack of facilities (eg interpreting booths) to provide a 'full' multilingual service.

One key concern is that, after enlargement, it may turn out not to be possible to provide full multilingualism in plenary due to a shortage of interpreters - in particular Maltese and Latvian interpreters.

The Dell'Alba report proposes a series of multilingual transitional arrangements, which are in reality already being carried out under a code of conduct. It notes that the principle of full multilingualism in plenary sessions cannot be called into question but that "a differentiated and functional approach" should be applied to other Parliament bodies.

The report proposes a stricter system of confirming the "linguistic profile" [ie which languages the participants speak and understand] of particular parliamentary bodies so that interpreting cover is provided for meetings only when necessary to ensure that maximum use is made of the linguistic resources available. In the past language resources have sometimes been provided even when they have not been required. The proposal for better planning, by confirming who will attend which meetings and whether or not they will need interpretation in advance is designed to avoid this kind of situation.

Other proposals which could lead to potential savings:


  • Not systematically having all documents translated - ie establishing a system of priorities;
  • Interpreting cover for all Parliament meetings outside Strasbourg, Brussels or Luxembourg to be assessed on a case by case basis given the potentially high extra cost and the need to buy in non-EU language cover.

Dell'Alba, an independent MEP, concludes the report by saying that he would like to revisit the idea of promoting a neutral bridging language such as esperanto. It says that such a language could promote transcultural communication by offering an alternative to the danger of the growing domination of certain current languages. The 'certain' current languages may well be a reference to the global influence of English.

Meanwhile the Commission has announced the launch of a twenty language version of the Europa website to ensure that citizens from the acceding countries have access a range of basic information on the purpose of the EU, its history, activities and institutions. The launch, on 16 March, was timed to coincide with the launch of a new Internet page introducing the ten commissioner nominees from the new Member States.


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