Interpretation of European Union Multilingual Law
Council of the European Union
June 1, 2005
International Journal of Baltic Law, No. 3, pp. 1-13, June 2005
The law of the European Union is iterated in over 20 languages (each version is equal, in principle, to any of the others). The article describes the caselaw involving discrepancies between the various language versions. As all these languages are official languages of the EU, the legal meaning of the texts in the various languages must in principle be the same. But this is problematic as legal terminology differs from country to country. The amount of variation depends not only on the country's legal system and legal traditions, but also on the uniqueness of the language of the country. This creates differences and discrepancies between and among the various language versions, and in turn raises questions of interpretation across the various official language versions of ostensibly the same text. In such cases, which language version should prevail? How should national courts solve the problem of interpretation of EU legal terminology between and among the EU's official languages?
The authors note that although the ECJ (European Court of Justice) has rejected reliance upon a metalanguage, nevertheless a metalanguage is being created.
The authors demonstrate that the ECJ has opted for what would, in linguistics, be termed a "deep structure" approach, or, in legal terminology, a 'multilingual' interpretative strategy which goes beyond the various language versions to seek for the true meaning of the act in question: the interpretative function of the court is to transcend the written texts. One could conclude that this has the rather perverse effect of rendering, de facto, none of the language versions authentic.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 9
Keywords: European Union, Multilingual Law, Metalanguage
JEL Classification: K33
Date posted: September 9, 2008 ; Last revised: September 24, 2008
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