The Statute of the Court of Justice and the Rules of Procedure establish a strict set of rules governing the use of languages, based on the concept of ‘language of the case'.
As a rule, the language of the case is chosen by the applicant from among the 23 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. Therefore, simultaneous interpretation is necessary at the public hearings.
Interpretation is provided during the hearings of the Court of Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal by the Interpretation Directorate, which has approximately 70 permanent interpreters. When necessary, it also calls upon the services of experienced free-lance 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 translator. Interpretation does not consist in translating a written text literally, but rather in faithfully transposing a message expressed orally from one language to another. The interpreter works in real time making communication possible between the speaker and the person for whom the pleadings are intended.
*German, English, Bulgarian, Danish, Spanish, Estonian, Finnish, French, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Swedish and Czech.