The EU’s Tower of Babel - The Interpretation of the European Court of Justice of Equally Authentic Texts Drafted in More Than One Official Language
G. Van Calster, ‘The EU’s Tower of Babel - The Interpretation of Multilingual Texts by the European Court of Justice’, Yearbook of European Law - 1997 (ed. Ami Barav and Derrick Wyatt), Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998, 363-393
16 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2012
Date Written: October 19, 1997
The European Union consists of fifteen Member States. The peoples of those states speak at least twelve different languages. Because of psychological and political reasons, the Union has chosen to include all officially recognised languages in its legal framework. This construction is likely to raise problematic issues, notably the practical problem of translating documents and the subsequent financial implication thereof. Equally salient is the question of how to involve all these languages in the day-to-day functioning of the Union . The right of every citizen of the Union to address himself to the institutions of the European Union and in return to be addressed to by those institutions, in the official language of the Member State under which he resorts, as well as the problem of the interpretation of those Community texts which are drafted in more than one language are important questions which need to be addressed. This article deals only with the latter issue, namely what is the linguistic regime established with regard to the Treaties establishing the European Communities and the secondary legislation stemming from those Treaties? What are the consequences of this regime for the interpretation of these texts by the Court of Justice and the national Judges? How has the Court answered the questions brought along by the multi-lingual character of the European Communities?
Keywords: EU, European Union, Languages, Multilingualism, Court of Justice, Interpretation
JEL Classification: K10, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation