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English Translation Style Guide for EU – THE EU INSTITUTIONS

English Translation Style Guide for EU


Title. The European Commission (before the Treaty of Lisbon, Commission of the European Communities) is governed by Articles 244 to 250 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Where the context is clear, it may also be referred to as just ‘the Commission’. Note that the abbreviation EC may also refer to European Community in historical references, so should be avoided in such cases.

Titles of Members. The word Commissioner should not be used in legal texts but is acceptable in other less formal, journalistic-type texts, such as press releases and especially headlines (where the more formal designations sound stilted). Mr Z, Commission Member, can also be used in less formal texts. The established forms are:

  • Mr X, President of the Commission, …
  • Ms Y, Vice-President, …
  • Mr Z, Member of the Commission responsible for …
  • Ms Z (Member of the Commission)

Usually Mr Z on its own is sufficient in English.

Cabinets. Each Commissioner has a private office called a ‘cabinet’, headed by a ‘Head of Cabinet’ (the French title Chef de cabinet is now no longer used in English). Formal references should follow the model ‘Ms Smith, Head of Cabinet to X, Member of the Commission’.

Commission meetings. The Members of the Commission hold a weekly meeting (réunion), normally on Wednesdays and sometimes divided into sittings (séances). The Commission adopts its proposals either at its meetings or by written procedure and presents (or transmits or sends) them to the Council. For a more detailed account of its decision-making arrangements, see the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.

Referring to the Commission. The term ‘the Commission’ may mean just the members of the Commission collectively (also known as the College of Commissioners, or College for short, the body ultimately responsible for Commission decisions) but it may also refer to the Commission as an institution. If the context does not make the meaning clear, you will need to be more precise.

Names of Commission departments. The Commission’s main administrative divisions — Directorates-General or DGs for short — have self-explanatory names, which are frequently abbreviated, e.g. EMPL or DG EMPL. The abbreviated forms are supposed to be for the Commission’s internal use only but some of them are becoming current elsewhere. Details and organisation charts of all Commission departments (including Eurostat and the Publications Office) can be found on the Commission’s website.

If the reader cannot be expected to know what ‘DG’ means, write out the name in full, at least to begin with, e.g. the Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs.

Services of the Commission. The Commission has a Legal Service and an Internal Audit Service, which are thus Services of the Commission. In Commission usage, however, ‘service’ can also mean any department of the Commission administration, e.g. a DG, office, or unit. These are services of the Commission or Commission services. Note the capitalisation.

Other commissions. Guard against confusion with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (EN: ECE, FR: CEE) based in Geneva and the European Commission of Human Rights based in Strasbourg.


The work and composition of the Council are defined in Articles 237 to 243 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The work of the Permanent Representatives is defined in Article 240(1).

Title. Generally write the Council; use Council of the European Union only in formal contexts or to distinguish from other councils (see below) where required.

General Secretariat. The Council has a General Secretariat (NB: not a Secretariat-General) headed by a Secretary-General, and conducts its business via committees and working parties.

Referring to Council meetings (FR: sessions):

  • the Council meeting of 22 May (one day)
  • the Council meeting of 22 and 23 May (two days)
  • the Council meeting of 22/23 May (overnight)
  • the Council meeting of 22 to 24 May (three days)

Meetings lasting more than one day have sittings (FR: séances) referred to by date: the Council sitting of 22 May.

The Council meets in what are termed ‘configurations’ to discuss particular policy areas. These meetings are normally attended by the national ministers holding the corresponding portfolio, though other matters may also be discussed.

The Council also holds informal meetings to discuss matters which do not lie within its responsibilities under the Treaties. For a more detailed account, see the Council’s Rules of Procedure.

The chair. The chair at Council meetings is taken by the minister whose country holds the Presidency at the time. His/her name appears above The President on any EU legislation adopted at the meeting. Avoid the President of the Council in reports on the meeting, however, and write either the minister presiding or his/her name, adding (President). The Presidency changes every six months on 1 January and 1 July.

Do not confuse the Council with the following institutions:

  • the European Council (see below)
  • the ACP-EC Council of Ministers under the Cotonou Convention
  • the Council of Europe, a non-EU body based in Strasbourg


Made into a European institution in its own right by the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Council comprises the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, together with its President (a new post introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon) and the President of the Commission. Its functions are set out in Article 15 of the revised EU Treaty and in Articles 325 and 326 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.


The work and composition of the European Parliament are defined in Articles 223 to 234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. For more detailed information on voting and other procedures, see Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

Title. Refer to the European Parliament simply as Parliament (no definite article) unless confusion with national parliaments is possible. If the context is clear, you may also use the abbreviation EP.

Sessions. Parliamentary sessions (FR: sessions) run from one year to the next, e.g. the 2004/05 session. These are divided into part-sessions, e.g. part-session from 12 to 15 January 2004 (FR: séances du 12 au 15 janvier).

Sitting. Each day’s sitting (FR: séance) during a part-session is referred to by the day on which it commences, whether or not it goes on past midnight.

The Secretariat. This is headed by the Secretary-General. If necessary, to avoid confusion with other secretariats it may be called the General Secretariat.

The Bureau. This consists of the President and Vice-Presidents of Parliament. The Cabinet du Président is the President’s Office. The quaestors are responsible for administrative and financial matters concerning Members.

MEPs. Members are identified in English by the letters MEP after their name. A full list of MEPs with their national party affiliations is given on Parliament’s website.

English titles of committees are available on the website. Note that there is a Committee on Budgets as well as a Committee on Budgetary Control.

Written questions. Answers should be headed Answer given by (Commission Member’s name) on behalf of the Commission, followed by the date of the answer. The MEP putting the question is referred to as the Honourable Member, other MEPs by name.

Debates. Parliament’s debates up to the end of the fourth Parliamentary term (May 1999) are available in paper form as annexes to the Official Journal. From April 1996, they are available online.


Following the Treaty of Lisbon, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) includes the Court of Justice, the General Court (previously the Court of First Instance) and specialised courts.

Constitution of the Court. The Court currently comprises the Court of Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal. The relationship between these is laid down by the Court’s Statute.

Court of Justice. Originally established in 1952, the Court of Justice is the highest authority on matters of EU law. A primary task is to ensure that the law is uniformly applied in all the Member States through preliminary rulings.

General Court (previously Court of First Instance). This was established in 1988 to relieve the Court of Justice of some of its workload. Its judgments are subject to appeal to the Court of Justice, but only on points of law.

Civil Service Tribunal. A specialised court, the CST was established in 2004 to deal with disputes between EU bodies and their staff, which had previously been under the Court of Justice’s and then the (then) Court of First Instances’s jurisdiction. Appeals against the Tribunal are heard by the General Court.

Citation of cases. NB: the information here applies to practice before entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Note that EN usage in the European Court Reports (ECR) is quite different from FR usage.

Cases from before the establishment of the Court of First Instance (now General Court) are cited as follows:

  • Case 13/72 Netherlands v Commission [1973] ECR 27 (where 13/72 means case 13 of 1972, [1973] is the year of publication in the European court reports (ECR) and 27 is the page number. The parties’ names are in italics, but not the ‘v’.)

Since then, Court of Justice and Court of First Instance (CFI) cases have been published in separate ECR volumes, which is reflected in the citation:

  • Case C-287/87 Commission v Greece [1990] ECR I-125 (Note the case number is prefixed ‘C’ for Court of Justice. The page number (125) is preceded by I because Court of Justice cases are published in section I of the court reports.)
  • Case T-27/89 Sklias v Commission [1990] ECR II-269 (The case number is prefixed ‘T’ for Tribunal de première instance. The page number (269) is preceded by II because CFI cases are published in section II of the court reports.)

From 1989 up to the creation of the CST, staff cases were recorded in a separate series of the ECR (ECR-SC) (and in Section II containing CFI cases). Staff cases from this period are quoted as follows:

  • Case T-13/95 Kyrpitsis v ESC [1996] ECR-SC I-A-167 and II-503

In cases heard by the CST, the case number is prefixed ‘F’ for fonction publique but otherwise cases should be quoted as before. A fictional example would be:

  • Case F-1/07 X v Council [2008] ECR-SC I-0000

In most circumstances, there is no need in English to cite the date of a judgment or an order (unless the case has not yet been published or it is one in a series of orders in a single case).

Page numbering. The page number in the ECR on which a judgment begins has been the same in the French and English versions since 1969 only. Use the EUR-Lex database to check that you have the right page number for references to the English version before that date.

Make clear the distinctions between the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Avoid formulations such as the Court if confusion of, say, the Court of Justice with the General Court or the Court of Auditors is possible.


The work of the Court of Auditors is defined in Articles 285 to 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. There is no abbreviated form for its title.

Annual reports. The Court of Auditors’ annual reports are published in the Official Journal. Special reports are also issued, but these are not always published and can be difficult to obtain, particularly if they deal with sensitive issues. The Commission replies formally to annual reports.


The Economic and Social Committee is governed by Articles 300 to 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. On 17 July 2002 it decided to add the word ‘European’ to its title. Although this does not appear in the Treaty, it is appropriate to use it.

Do not confuse this Committee with the UN Economic and Social Council, of which the Economic Commission for Europe is a regional subdivision

A Secretary-General heads the Secretariat-General. Preparatory work for the plenary sessions in Brussels is carried out by sections devoted to individual policy areas.

The Committee elects a President and officers for a two-year term, and the groups and sections now also have presidents.

As well as giving opinions on draft EU legislation, the Committee can initiate opinions and studies of its own. Its rules of procedure can be found on its website.


The Committee of the Regions is governed by Articles 300 and 305 to 307 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

A full account of its composition and activities can be found on its website, as can its rules of procedure and a list of the Commissions that prepare its work.


Now a European institution in its own right following the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank for the EU’s single currency, the euro, and its main job is to maintain its purchasing power and thus price stability in the euro area. More specifically, the basic tasks of the ECB are to manage the volume of money in circulation, conduct foreign-exchange operations, hold and manage the Member States’ official foreign-exchange reserves, and promote the smooth operation of payment systems.

The ECB was established on 30 June 1998, in accordance with its Statute. Its decision-making bodies are its Governing Council, Executive Board and General Council.


European Investment Bank. The European Investment Bank (EIB) was established by the Treaty of Rome. Its main business is making or guaranteeing loans for investment projects. Capital is subscribed by Member States, but principally the EIB borrows on the market by issuing bonds. It provides financial support for projects that embody EU objectives in the Member States and in many other countries throughout the world. The Bank has a Board of Governors, a Board of Directors, a Management Committee and an Audit Committee.

European Investment Fund. The European Investment Fund (EIF) is an institution whose main objective is to support the creation, growth and development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It provides risk capital and guarantee instruments, using either its own funds or those available under mandates from the EIB or the European Union.

The EIF has a tripartite shareholding, which includes the EIB, the European Union represented by the European Commission, and a number of European banks and financial institutions, from both the public and private sector. The EIF acts in a complementary role to its majority shareholder, the EIB.


Over the years the EU has spawned a number of agencies to perform specific technical, scientific or managerial tasks. Participation in the agencies is not necessarily restricted to the Member States of the EU.

© European Union

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