EU Plenary Debate Translations ‘By Request Only’

26/11/2012 | Hayley

Translations of plenary debates at the European Parliament have been reduced in a bid to save money. According to EurActiv, from December 10th translations of these sessions will only be available by request and minutes will be recorded in the language they are conducted in. Prior to this, proceedings were translated into all 23 of the official languages spoken by the European Parliament. This move comes on the back of advice laid out in a report by Bulgarian MEP Stanimir Ilchev, who suggested amending the translation clause in the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. This previously stipulated the verbatim translation of sessions into every language spoken by EU members.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe reports that Ilchev does not see the cut as going against the principle of MEPs being able to speak and write in their mother tongue. Mr Ilchev points out that every member will still be able to listen to plenary sessions in their native language through an official interpreter. “However, it seemed wasteful to continue the systematic translation in all languages of the record of proceedings, as well as to only translate them into English, which could appear as linguistically unjust,” he explained. According to Mr Ilchev, the amendment will save the European Parliament €8.6 million (£6.96 million) annually.

The argument for translation services

There are those who may oppose the move, though. EurActiv reported back in July that French publication Libération had published a complaint from journalist Jean Quatremer about the preferential treatment of English at European Union institutions. His comments followed the publication of the European Commission’s suggestions for boosting economic stability and growth in member states, which was published in English. Translations of the text were not available until several hours later.

He could have a point, as of the more than 300 million citizens of the Eurozone, only a fraction of these speak English as a first language. Meanwhile, at an earlier press briefing, Jean-Pierre de Launoit, president of public association Alliance Française, said: “We intervened on several occasions with the European Commission to try to get a better distribution of languages. But it is not easy.”

These feelings may explain why Mr Ilchev suggested recording plenary debates in the language they were conducted in, rather than selecting English as a default. As he pointed out, translating the sessions into English only could appear “linguistically unjust”.

Earlier this year, Language Insight wrote about life as an interpreter at the European Parliament. Reporting on a BBC interview with interpreter Daniel Pashley, we discovered it wasn’t all serious and there were also plenty of light-hearted moments to be enjoyed on the job. However, should language services at this official organisation continue to be cut, MEPs may not be laughing for very much longer.

What do you think about the European Parliament cutting its translation services? Do you think the move is worth it for the money that will be saved?

Image credits: mcmay

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