No guarantee of full Maltese translation for new MEPs

Full translation services for the Maltese language might not be available for MEPs elected next May

Will our MEPs be guaranteed full Maltese interpretation and translation services after May 2019?
Will our MEPs be guaranteed full Maltese interpretation and translation services after May 2019?

The new Maltese members of the European Parliament elected next May will be returning to a parliament in which they might not have the full translation services for the Maltese language.

In March, the European Parliament adopted by 433 votes to 209, with 20 abstentions, a decision to extend Rule 159 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which allows a derogation from the obligation to provide interpretation in all official EU languages.

Rule 158 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure provides for the right of all MEPs to speak and use any official language of the EU, which accords all 24 official languages equal rights. That includes that the EP’s documents are to be drawn up in the official languages, and for all MEPs to have the right to speak in Parliament in the official language of their choice, with interpretation being provided into the other official languages.

However, under Rule 159, derogations from Rule 158 are permissible when linguists required for an official language are not available in sufficient numbers.

“Despite considerable progress to improve the situation, the number of qualified translators is still expected to be so limited as regards Irish that, for the foreseeable future, full coverage of that language under Rule 158 cannot be assured,” the European Parliament said on the vote, which extends Rule 159 for the new parliamentary term.

But Croatian MEP Suica Dubravka (EPP) has demanded the European Commission to explain what it is doing to ensure equal rights for all languages within the EU.

“The explanation for [the extension of Rule 159] is that capacity in Croatian, Irish and Maltese is not expected to be such as to allow a full interpretation service in those languages from the beginning of the ninth parliamentary term. This puts the Croatian language in an inferior position to the other official languages of the EU,” she told the EC.

“The fundamental principles of the European Union state that EU citizens have the right to obtain information about the EU’s activities in a language that they can understand and have the possibility of participating in the EU’s legislative process. Furthermore, the TFEU prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and therefore also on the grounds of language.”

Another Croatian MEP, Ruza Tomasic (ECR), has protested the decision, given that Croatian is the only national language of Croatians.

“The extension of Article 159 of the Rules of Procedure means a further postponement of the full application of Croatian, Irish and Maltese language, with the explanation that even at the beginning of the next convocation of Parliament there will be no capacities to provide full translation services. So how many centuries are necessary to ensure these capacities? Unlike Ireland and Malta, the Republic of Croatia has one official language, Croatian,” she said.

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