European Parliament supports multilingualism but...

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Sep 9 15:39:05 UTC 2006

European Parliament supports multilingualism but 'pragmatic solutions'
needed over rising interpretation costs

Brussel- Bruxelles, Thursday, 07 September 2006 by Davyth Hicks MEPs
adopted Alexander Stubb's (EPP) own initiative report on Tuesday (5th
September) on interpretation expenditure incurred by the Parliament, the
Commission and the Council.  According to a European Parliament (EP)
statement on the report MEPs consider that "multilingualism is one of the
key features of the European Union, which highlights cultural and
linguistic diversity and ensures equal treatment of EU citizens."

The EP statement continues, "The House also considers that multilingualism
is an expression of the EU's cultural diversity, which must be preserved,
and that, therefore, while the increasing number of official languages
calls for pragmatic solutions in the preparatory work within the
institutions, multilingualism must be guaranteed to ensure the legitimacy
and diversity of the European Union."  The report says that the total cost
of all the linguistic services of the EU institutions, translation and
interpretation combined, represents only 1 % of the total EU budget.

The overall cost of interpretation in 2003 was 57m for the European
Parliament and 106m for the Council, the Commission, the European Economic
and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and some agencies. MEPs
are, however, concerned that in 2003 approximately 16% (25.9m) of the
total interpretation costs of 163m represented costs for services supplied
but not used and for stand-by arrangements.

Parliament urges the EP, the Council and the Commission to endeavour to
reduce 'implicit or explicit stand-by duty', these arrangements accounting
for 18m spent on interpretation services supplied but not used. They add
that reserve interpreters should be available for ad hoc meetings with a
short request time. The full cost for an interpretation day is almost 30%
higher in Parliament than in the Council or the Commission, one reason
being that very few local interpreters can be used during Strasbourg
sessions, which increases Parliament's interpretation costs in Strasbourg
by 13 %.

The Parliament has also urged its administration to raise Members'
awareness of interpretation costs and asks if the administration makes
best possible use of the language profiles of Members. MEPs stress that
this should not lead to a ranking of official EU languages. In 2003, the
EP spent 4m on interpretation services made available but not used due to
late requests or cancellations. MEPs also ask that last-minute
cancellations and last-minute requests be discouraged. Finally, MEPs have
called on the interpretation services to be more flexible in their service
planning and request system. (Eurolang 2006)


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