The Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Rules of Procedure establish a strict set of rules governing the use of languages, based on the concept of ‘the language of the case’.
As a rule, the language of the case is chosen by the applicant from among the 24 official languages * of the European Union. In order to guarantee equal access to justice for all citizens, it is essential for the parties to proceedings before the Courts of the European Union to be able to use their own language. Simultaneous interpretation is therefore necessary at public hearings.
Interpretation during the hearings before the Court of Justice and the General Court is provided by the Interpretation Directorate, which has approximately 70 permanent interpreters. When necessary, it also calls upon the services of experienced freelance interpreters.
The teams of interpreters are put together according to the language of the case, the language(s) of the Member States represented at the hearing, and the interpretation needs of the judges and of any groups of visitors. The number of languages used may vary from one hearing to another. The role of the interpreter is not like that of the lawyer-linguist. Interpretation does not consist in translating a written text literally, but rather in faithfully conveying a message expressed orally in a language other than that of the speaker. The interpreter works in real time making communication possible between the speaker and the person hearing the oral submissions.
Advice to counsel appearing before the Court
The task of simultaneous interpreters in the multilingual environment of the Court of Justice of the European Union is to help you to communicate easily and fluently with the Judges and the other participants in the hearing. The interpreters prepare in advance for every hearing by studying the case-file in depth. However, it may be helpful to bear the following points in mind when pleading :
- Reading out a written text at speed makes simultaneous interpretation into another language particularly difficult. The interpreters will be able to work much more effectively if you speak freely, at a natural and calm pace.
- If you do decide to read out a written text which you have prepared, please send it if possible in advance to the Interpretation Directorate* by email. This will help the interpreters to prepare for the hearing. It goes without saying that :
-your text will be used only by the interpreters and will not be communicated or disclosed to anyone else
-at the hearing, only what you actually say when addressing the Court will be interpreted.
- Even handwritten notes with references are helpful. You can always give a copy to the interpreters just before the hearing.
- Please remember to quote citations, references, figures, names and acronyms clearly and slowly.
- Before you speak, please remove your earphone, lower the volume, and place it away from the microphone in order to avoid any interference.
- Turn off your mobile phone / PDA completely.
For more information please see the Practice directions to parties, available on the Court of Justice’s ‘Procedure’ page.