The seminar was opened by Mrs Janet Pitt, Director-General of Translation, and Mr Jochen Richter, Head of the Multilingualism and External Relations Unit, who welcomed the participants and opened the floor for discussion.
The first presentation, “Legal terminology and multilingualism”, was delivered by Em. Prof. Isolde Burr, University of Cologne, who stressed the importance of the use of legal language and terminology as well as the role of legal concepts in composing statutory texts. Using examples from the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the UE, Prof. Burr showed how terminological consistency could influence the negotiation on the substance of the Treaties. Prof. Burr has also highlighted the contribution of multilingualism to blending the different legal and linguistic cultures into a new EU legal culture.
Prof. Antonella Distante gave a speech on “Legal terminology in the ‘glocal’ world of communication”. Advocating the idea of terminological standardisation as an essential linguistic development within the European framework, Prof. Distante indicated how crucial it is for the translators to understand what stands behind the legal terms. The word “constitution”, for instance, might have many meanings in various countries depending on their juridical systems and it is therefore very helpful, if not fundamental, to possess at least some of the basic knowledge of the legal gist related to the particular terms.
Passing the floor to the next speaker – Caroline Reichling, Head of Terminology at the European Court of Justice, the moderator, Rodolfo Maslias, Head of EP’s TermCoord, reminded that “in a well-functioning democratic structure the laws are made by the legislators and not by the Courts, therefore the terminology used by the Courts for legal interpretation is a crucial tool for the legislative bodies”.
Caroline Reichling presented the project relating to the comparative multilingual vocabulary, a subject proposed by the Publication Office of the European Union (PO) on the 22nd of December 2008 to the Translation Directorate General (DG Trad) of the European Court of Justice. The project falls within the framework of the e-Justice portal, one of the objectives of which is to use the IT to improve citizens’ access to justice. The project is both complex and ambitious and its institutional and legal effects are undeniable. The work began in 2009 and DG Trad has chosen to deal with areas including immigration and family law.
Furthermore, the most widely used codes of best practice and international standards relating to terminology and documentary language were also taken into account. Since the tools to be developed are the first of their kind, it was necessary to use methodology strictly adapted to the specific features of the projects.
The afternoon part of the presentation, delivered by the Quality Coordinators of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament, explained the ordinary legislative procedure highlighting its multilingual and terminological aspects. It also touched upon the most problematic issues and the possible solutions in this field.
The purpose of the presentation was to contribute to a better understanding of the respective roles of the EU institutions in the overall text-production process. As one of the speakers emphasised, the meeting was the first time that the representatives from the three legislative institutions of the EU devised together on such a comprehensive overview of the document flow. The presentation has in addition stressed the crucial role of translators in the law-making process and the changes brought to it by the Treaty of Lisbon.