Talk isn’t cheap – in any language

In an exclusive interview with EURACTIV, MEP Alexander Stubb elaborates on his efforts to cut down on wasted interpreters’ services.  

His report was given majority approval in Strasbourg earlier in September, but Finnish MEP Alexander Stubb (EPP-ED), who was spurred into action by the millions of euro wasted annually through interpreters (EURACTIV 1 September 2006) being booked but not used when officials either cancel at the last minute or simply don’t attend sessions, has clarified his stance.

Given that a large part of the problem appears to stem from poor communication, Stubb believes that “the Parliament, Commission and Council should establish an overview on the official/freelance interpreter ratio per language.

“I suggest the Council and the Commission could improve inter-institutional co-operation by, for example, exchanging interpreters and creating mixed interpretation teams to make possible the use of available interpreters where and when they are requested in order to meet real needs.”

This use of ‘local interpreters’ Stubb explained, should be made simpler, because the disparity in interpreters’ costs between the Parliament and the Commission are due to hardly any local interpreters being used during the Strasbourg sessions.

Stubb also deflected any suggestion of bias in the report towards the use of only three languages, English, French and German. “Quite the opposite, we should not have a language criteria for MEPs. That would be against the principles of democracy. In my report, I emphasised that multilingualism must be guaranteed to ensure the legitimacy and diversity of the European Union. On the other hand, I think that civil servants working in international institutions should be able to communicate in several languages. This would also reduce costs.”

And, as to the possibility of sanctions, such as fines or withdrawal of interpreters’ services for MEPs who frequently book services without using them, Stubb acknowledges it as a possibility but is wary over the implementation of such a scheme: “Yes, his could have been an option, but it would mean, yet again, new administrative tasks – my report calls for better planning, first and foremost. In 2003, some €26 million was spent on interpretation services supplied but not used. The key is awareness of costs.”

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