The Acquis ‘traduit’ is no fait accompli

Translating all of the EU’s legislation into all nine of new Member States’ languages by 1 May is proving no easy task. Maltese is a particular problem and then there’s the possibility that a Turkish version will be needed…

Time is running out as translators from the new Member States burn the midnight oil to make sure that the acquis communautaire, the full body of EU legislation which amounts to some 85,000 pages, is rendered into their respective languages by 1 May 2004.

Of the nine new languages, Czech, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian are all running behind schedule but Maltese is said to be the main problem because there is such a shortage of Maltese translators. But here English, increasingly the de facto global lingua franca, is likely to save the day because it also happens to be an official language in Malta.

The other major 'language problem' may be Turkish but that depends on whether Cyprus joins the EU on 1 May as a united or divided island.

Should translation difficulties delay the official publication of the acquis in certain languages then this could, in theory, open up the possibility of lawsuits being filed by EU citizens. According to the Financial Times, a spokesperson for Enlargement Commissioner Gunther Verheugen has said that individuals could claim in the European Court of Justice that EU law did not apply to them if it had not been published in their native tongue.

The Commission's DG Enlargement spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori told EURACTIV that they were pulling out all the stops to have the acquis ready on time in all the different language versions. Ultimately, the responsibility for specific language translations lies with each of the individual new Member States concerned.

The list of languages - Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Slovene, Polish and Maltese - is quite a mouthful. Adding these nine languages to the existing eleven will be one of the challenges for the post-enlargement EU as it seeks to ensure that the Union retains its unique multilingual nature whilst keeping a lid on translating and interpreting costs.



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