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English Translation Style Guide for EU



Official/working/procedural languages. The relevant regulations do not distinguish between official and working languages. Internally, however, the Commission works in three languages — English, French and German — unofficially referred to as the ‘procedural languages’. Material generated inside the Commission for internal use only is drafted in one or more of these and, if necessary, is translated only between those three. Similarly, incoming documents in a non-procedural language are translated into one of the procedural languages so that they can be generally understood within the Commission, but are not put into the other official languages.


Currency abbreviations. The main currency codes are set out in Annex A7 to the Interinstitutional Style Guide. An exhaustive list of codes can be found in ISO 4217.

The currency abbreviation precedes the amount and is followed by a hard space (Key code for Windows: Alt + 0160. In Word, press Ctrl + Shift + Space.):

  • EUR 2 400; USD 2 billion

The symbol also precedes the amount and is followed by a thin space (Key code for Windows: Alt + 8201. However, this does not display correctly on Commission PCs using older versions of Windows and Office. In such cases, insert a hard space (Ctrl + Shift + Space in Word) and then halve the space width (in Word: Format, Font, Character Spacing, Scale = 50 %). If this is not practicable, close up to the amount.):

  • € 120 000; £ 78 000; $ 100 m

Units and subunits. Use a point to separate units from subunits:

  • € 7.20; $ 50.75; EUR 2.4 billion; USD 1.8 billion

The euro. Like ‘pound’, ‘dollar’ or any other currency name in English, the word ‘euro’ is written in lower case with no initial capital. Where appropriate, it takes the plural ‘s’ (as does ‘cent’):

  • This book costs ten euros and fifty cents

However, in documents and tables where monetary amounts figure largely, make maximum use of the € symbol or the abbreviation EUR.


The terms ‘external relations’ or ‘external policy’ refer to the Commission’s and the EU’s traditional dealings with non-member countries in the fields of trade, aid and various forms of cooperation. Use ‘foreign policy’ only in the limited context of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP).

Information on individual countries. For names, currencies, capital cities, etc., see the list in Annex A5 to the Interinstitutional Style Guide.

The European Economic Area (EEA), established by the 1991 Agreement on the European Economic Area, extended the ‘free movement’ principles of the then European Communities (now the EU) to the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), i.e. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Austria and Liechtenstein. Switzerland failed to ratify the Agreement and Austria, Finland and Sweden subsequently joined the EU.

Enlargement process. Going by the Commission’s enlargement glossary, an ‘acceding country’ is one that has signed an act of accession, a ‘candidate country’ is one whose application has been officially accepted, whether or not negotiations have started, and a ‘potential candidate country’ is one that has been offered the prospect of membership. The term ‘applicant country’ would describe any country that has applied to join the EU, so is not an official designation as such. The term ‘accession country’ may be used either for countries about to join the EU or those that have just joined it, so should be avoided if there is a danger of misinterpretation. Note that ‘candidate countries’ may include ‘acceding countries’ where no distinction is being made between them.

South-East Europe (Western Balkans). In the context of EU external relations the two terms are used interchangeably to refer collectively to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro.

Third countries. The term third country is used in the Treaties, where it means a country that is not a member of the European Union. This meaning is derived from ‘third country’ in the sense of one not party to an agreement between two other countries. Even more generally, the term is used to denote a country other than two specific countries referred to, e.g. in the context of trade relations. This ambiguity is also compounded by the fact that the term is often incorrectly interpreted to mean ‘third-world country’.

If there is a risk of misunderstanding, therefore, especially in documents intended for the general public, either spell out what the term means or use e.g. ‘non-member/non-EU countries’ where this is meant.

United States of America. Shorten to the United States after first mention; America and American are quite acceptable, but the States should generally be avoided. Abbreviate as USA if the proper noun is meant, as US if the adjective is intended. USA is used more widely in other languages; in translation work it is better rendered the United States. Note that a singular verb follows in English.

Islam. Islam is the faith, Muslim (not Muhammedan, Mohammedan) a member of that faith. An Islamic country thus has a mainly Muslim population, some of whom may be Islamists (i.e. ‘fundamentalists’).

Middle East. The term Middle East now covers the countries around the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and Iran. The term Near East has fallen into disuse in English since World War Two. Translate both French Proche Orient and Moyen Orient, German Naher Osten and Mittlerer Osten, by Middle East — unless, of course, the source text contrasts the two regions.

International organisations. The best source is The Yearbook of International Organisations.

United Nations. Use the abbreviation UN, not UNO. See also Everyman’s UN.

GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). The term the GATT refers to the Agreement, which is still in force, while GATT without the article refers to the now defunct organisation, superseded by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). While GATT had Contracting Parties, the WTO has Members. The WTO administers not only the GATT but also the GATS — the General Agreement on Trade in Services — as well as a host of other Understandings, Agreements and Arrangements on specific topics. The WTO is not to be confused with the WCO, or World Customs Organisation, formerly known as the Customs Cooperation Council.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). The ‘Conseil des ministres’ is called simply ‘the OECD Council’.

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