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Certified translations in the European Union and the consequences of Regulation 2016/1191

The year 2019 will bring some novelties for sworn translations in the form of a new Regulation that has not been exempt from some controversy. We are talking about Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 facilitating the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in the European Union and amending Regulation (EU) 1024/2012. Apart from the discussion that took place in substance - and which we are not going to go into now - the Regulation has been approved and will gradually come into force from 16 February 2019.

The aim of the Regulation is, as its name suggests, to reduce bureaucracy and the costs of translating public documents. According to Commissioner Věra Jourová, European citizens complained about "long and costly bureaucratic procedures for submitting an authentic act in order to marry or get a job in the country where they reside" including sworn translations. Standard multilingual forms and "Translation Assistance" forms are designed to avoid having to translate the public document issued.

I do not know entirely where the issue of the excessive cost of certified translations has come from (I did not see anything in the Eurobarometer survey that indicated such an issue) but I think it is a tricky issue that depends very much on how it is raised. Sworn translations do have a cost - there is no doubt about that - but it is no less true that a sworn translator is a trained person with extensive linguistic knowledge that is not acquired in the short term. The sworn translator carries out the translation of the document and, in addition, assumes responsibility by certifying the content of what he or she has translated. Obviously, this cannot be expected to be done at a bargain price. I have always found it curious that some people are capable of complaining about the cost of a sworn translation but very say little when they are handed a large bill in a workshop or any official household appliance service.

Nevertheless, Regulation 2016/1191 does not invent anything new either. It simply progresses and continues on the path of establishing standardised forms to facilitate the exchange of information. This is something we already knew in other areas, such as multilingual birth or marriage certificates, which are exempt from legalisation and do not require translation. It turns out that Regulation 2016/1191 does not go far enough, as it could have gone into greater detail on the electronic and telematic aspects of verifying certificates online. Article 14 ("Request for information in case of reasonable doubt") seems to be a relic of the past when there are now verification security codes with which to check the authenticity of a document on the portal of any body.

What do the Regulations mean for sworn translators? Well, that depends on our language combination. In the French and German area, we already worked with multilingual forms. The ICCS Vienna Convention No 16 of 8 September 1976 (BOE 200 of 22 August 1983) on multilingual certification of birth, marriage or death certificates exempted from legalisation documents from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland or Turkey to mention but a few. So there is nothing new here.

The most interesting part can probably be found in Article 6.2 of Regulation 2016/1191, which reads as follows

Article 6

2. A certified translation by a person qualified to do so under the law of a Member State shall be accepted in all Member States.

In other words, from the entry into force of the rule, all certified translations in the European Union will be treated in the same way. This is an issue of profound significance and should remove the barriers that we encountered with reverse translations, that is to say, those destined for a country other than our own. However, we will have to see the problems that such a novelty can bring about. Because if we accept any sworn translation from outside, it is essential to check the appointment of the sworn translator and the authenticity of his/her signature. Regulation 2016/1161 therefore provides for the need to be able to have 'lists of persons authorised under national law to carry out certified translations, where such lists exist; an indicative list of the types of authorities authorised under national law to make certified copies; information concerning the means by which certified translations and certified copies may be identified; and information concerning the specific characteristics of certified copies'. We would do better to do so because the contrary would mean breathing new life into all kinds of picaresque situations, counterfeiting and fraud.

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