EU law is made in an interesting interaction between lawyers and translators. The responsibility of the latter is very high, as it is settled case law of the European Court of Justice that the true meaning of EU law − equally authentic in 24 languages − is to be established by means of a purposive interpretation in the light of all the language versions. To some extent, translators therefore make the law. Specific language versions may lead to a specific interpretation of EU law, by the Court of Justice or by judges in the EU Member States, particularly in the case of linguistic divergences. This is a quite unique situation in the world. In my presentation, I would like to describe the lawmaking process, evaluate current practices (the comparison of language versions by the ECJ and national judges – with or without the help of translators), taking into account the challenge of “conceptual differences” in different legal systems, where similar terms may mean different things) and assess the situation of individuals (the addressees of the norm): can they be required to look at other language versions than their own (if need be with the help of a translator)?
Press officer, previously lawyer-linguist, at the Court of Justice of the EU (since 1.12.2001). Professor of Constitutional law of the European Union (part-time), University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel). My academic research and publications focus on language and law (PhD in 2015, published as EU Language Law (Europa Law Publishing, Groningen) in the same year. For more information and photo, see: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefaanvanderjeught-15333358/