Eurocracy: Lost in translation

Angela Merkel and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker (Reuters / Francois Lenoir)
Members of the Lower House of the German Parliament, the Bundestag, are struggling to figure out what some EU papers might mean. Lots of badly translated documents are regularly sent back to Brussels, slowing down political work.

­Approximately one hundred important EU documents have been sent back by the Bundestag committee in the current legislative period alone, the Saarbrücker Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday. Crucial decisions have to be postponed amidst Europe's debt crisis, while the relevant documents circulate between Berlin and Brussels marked as a "consultation obstacle."

Flawed translations appear to be an obstacle for a whole range of issues. They have slowed the work of the Interior, Finance, Budgetary, Economic, and Defense Committees in the German parliament. To make things worse, the German versions of the documents are often not included at all.

The European Commission has been promising a new translation strategy, says the paper, citing the chairman of the Bundestag Europe Committee, Gunther Krichbaum, adding that “nothing has happened.”

German MPs are due to discuss the problem on Thursday. They are likely to demand that the European Commission allocates sufficient resources to improve the quality of translations – an optimistic expectation given that thousands of officials are already devoted to translating documents at an annual cost of hundreds of millions of euros.

The European Union conducts its paperwork in 23 languages.