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.