CHAPTER 4: Translation |
Does translation cause delays
in the CJEU?
57. One general issue that arose repeatedly in
the evidence was that of delays caused by the CJEU's language
regime. There are two aspects to this issue. The first concerns
translation of Court documents into the CJEU's internal working
language of French, and the second, the translation of its judgments
into the 23 official languages of the EU.
TRANSLATION INTO THE CJEU'S WORKING
58. Most evidence submitted to the Committee
on behalf of legal practitioners identified the need to translate
all documents into the CJEU's working language as creating a significant
bottleneck in the system. 
59. Mr William Robinson, who worked for
29 years in the English Translation Division at the CJEU, also
made the case for English and argued that "English has become
a lingua franca in a way that French is no longer";
he believes that the Court "should use English as an internal
working language alongside French".
60. Academic opinion painted a different, rather
more pragmatic picture. For example, Professor Tridimas acknowledged
the "heavy toll" that translation into French imposed
on both the EU's resources and on the length of proceedings, but
he accepted that "[g]iven the constraints of multilingualism,
it is difficult to see how the burdens of translation can be lessened
Professor Arnull told the Committee that there "has
to be a language that the court can conduct discussion in, in
which all its members are conversant, and for historical reasons
that language is French". Whilst there may well be an argument
for changing from French to, for example, English, "the consequence
of doing that would be similar; you would still have one language
which some people spoke better than others".
61. The CCBE also acknowledged the limited impact
reform would have in this area, saying that they were not "convinced
that by having two internal working languages you necessarily
create greater efficiencies".
62. It is our view that the popular opinion
that delay is caused by translating documents into the CJEU's
working language is misplaced. The CJEU has to have a working
language and for historical reasons that language is French. Any
increase in the number of working languages will, in the Committee's
view, merely add another level of translation to the process,
thus exacerbating any existing delays caused by translation.
TRANSLATING THE COURTS' JUDGMENTS
INTO THE EU'S 23 OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
63. The Bar European Group identified this stage
of the process as a "major problem" and stated that
for "as long as there is a need for ... judgments to be translated
into every EU official language, this bottleneck is unlikely to
ease". As a
solution, they argued that the "EU should select four or
five official languages into which every document should be translated
and then require translation into a different language only where
the origin or interest in the case demanded it".
64. Professor Arnull disagreed: "it
is not clear that we could reduce the number of languages at least
at the stages of translating the Advocate General's opinions and
the judgments ... [t]here is at least a core of documents that
will have to be available in all languages". He concluded
that "one could spend an enormous amount of energy trying
to get the language regime changed, with very little to show for
65. From the perspective of the CJ, Sir Konrad
Schiemann said that it would be possible to abandon translation
into all 23 official languages but that this would be extremely
sensitive politically. He argued that the essence of EU law was
that it was also national law and it was understandable that people
wanted it translated into their own national languages.
66. The Registrar of the CJ said that in his
view translation was not causing a bottleneck. It was an obligation
to translate into the EU's official languages and this was not
currently a problem. He did say, however, that this could become
a problem if the Court's workload increased and that the Court
needed additional resources but had struggled to receive them.
He pointed to a recent attempt by the Court to employ one extra
English lawyer-linguist, which had met with resistance from both
the Council and the European Parliament.
67. Judge Nicholas Forwood acknowledged that
in the GC cases did take longer as a result of translation, but
he stressed that it was a necessary part of the process. He argued
that in the GC translation was less of a delaying factor than
many people supposed as translation took up on average only 3.4
months of a case lasting 32 months. By contrast, as CST judgments
have no effect in the Member States, they do not need to be translated
into all 23 languages, but the President of the CST feared that
this made access to the CST's case law problematic.
68. Access to the CJ's case law, either by
Member States' authorities or their citizens, must remain the
key. The law as decided by the CJ applies equally throughout the
Member States, and it has to be available in a language that all
the citizens of the Member States can understand. This is important
for the Court's legitimacy.
69. In the cases of the GC and the CST it seems
to the Committee that translation levels are already at the minimum
level required to satisfy the twin pressures of speed and accessibility.
70. Translation remains an expensive but necessary
service for an institution operating in a multilingual and transnational
environment. It is, as AG Sharpston
phrased it, "a simple fact of life".
If further enlargement of the EU takes place these costs will
90 (WE 8) at paragraph 9; (WE 7) at paragraph 6; (WE
1) at paragraphs 24-26. Back
(WE 14) at paragraphs 2 and 5. Back
(WE 11) at paragraph 31. Back
Q 15. Back
Q 51. Back
(WE 12) at paragraphs 6 and 20. Back
(WE 12) at paragraph 21. Back
Q 17. Back
Appendix 4 at page 51. Back
See AG Sharpston's evidence at paragraph 1.6 in Appendix 5. Back