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The interpretation in international institutions

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European Parliament in Strasbourg(Cabin for interpreters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg)

The ability to communicate for people who do not share the same language is a prerequisite for the functioning of all international institutions.

Some of them adopt the working languages that all delegates must master. If there are several, interpretation is provided from and into all these languages. Interpretation is also necessary to invite people who could not or would not speak in a language other than their own.


If the French and English are the two UNESCO working languages, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish are also official languages. Interpretation is provided to and from these languages.

European Union

Since January 1, 2007, there are 23 working languages of the European Union: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Indeed, the possibility for everyone to express exactly what is desired in his native language and to understand perfectly what others say is essential to the functioning of all international institutions. Giving to all participants the opportunity to express themselves in their native language is a fundamental requirement of the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. In many cases, the legal acts resulting from discussions will have an immediate and direct impact on the lives of citizens. There should be no obstacle for understanding and expression of ideas at meetings. The citizens of Europe should not be represented in Brussels by their best linguists: they must send their best experts.

The Directorate General for Interpretation (also known as Joint Interpreting  and Conferences) is the world’s largest interpreting service. It provides interpretation for more than 11,000 meetings per year. As its name suggests, this is a common service that ensures a high quality of interpretation in Brussels and elsewhere in the world, for the European Commission, the Council of the European Union (informally called “Council of Ministers”) The Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank and other EU bodies.

DG Interpretation provides multilingual communication between stakeholders, which is at the heart of the Community decision-making. As for the written text, the translation service of the European Commission ensures the official translation. Thus, DG Interpretation provides interpreters for fifty meetings a day. Language arrangements for these meetings vary considerably. This goes consecutive interpretation to two languages, which requires the presence of an interpreter, for simultaneous interpretation twenty four to twenty four.

For the European Parliament, the Director General for Interpretation provides all its meetings: plenary in Strasbourg or Brussels, parliamentary committees and political groups in Brussels and other European cities and delegations for relations with third countries. It also recruits interpreters for the Court of Auditors and the European Commission services in Luxembourg, the seat of the European Parliament Secretariat.

At the Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, the Directorate for Interpretation provides interpretation of hearings for the three courts (Court of Justice, the Court of First Instance and the Court of Public Service) and other meetings (magistrates to seminars, information visits and protocol).

DG Interpretation and European Parliament and the Court of Justice  interpretation services is responsible for multilingual communication in meetings, mainly through simultaneous interpretation, at a total cost of about half a euro per year per European citizen. DG Interpretation costs the taxpayer 0.28 euros per citizen per year.

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