According to EU policy, all 23 official languages of the European Union have equal status. Enabling EU citizens to communicate in any of the official languages has made the Union more transparent and more efficient.
Translating the web pages of the EU institutions is important, as EU citizens look to these pages to find information. The ‘Your life in the European Union’ pages are a good example of this. Information is available on these pages on a range of subjects that EU citizens would find useful, from how to study abroad to rights to healthcare. The fact that these pages are translated into all 23 official EU languages makes them more accessible to citizens.
The European Commission is proposing to restructure the Web Translation Unit of DG Translation. In effect, the Unit will be disbanded and the translators sent back to their respective language departments. The Web Translation Unit was established in response to negative referendum results on the European Constitution in 2005. Margot Wallström, the then Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy, identified the Internet as the best medium of communication with citizens, and the decision was made to translate the pages into all the official languages of the EU. The communication to the Commission ‘Communicating about Europe via the Internet: Engaging the citizens’ (SEC(2007)1742) states, under point 3.2.2: ‘Finally, with a view to providing information for the general public in the top layers of the Europa website in 23 languages, and delivering a website that provides services to citizens in a language they can understand, DG Translation has created a web translation unit.’
Without a dedicated, specialist unit working on translating the Commission’s web pages, it is difficult to foresee how the website will continue to be translated into all 23 official languages. With the dissolution of the Web Translation Unit of DG Translation, how will the European Commission be able to fulfil its commitment to communicate with the citizens via the Internet in all 23 EU official languages?