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Crazy ideas from the EU regarding certified translations

Updated: Jun 22


A draft from the European Union is reaching us that is frankly worrying. A project promoted by Viviane Reding that aims to simplify the recognition of public deeds in the European Union. To this end, it is proposed that the requirement of the Hague Apostille be abolished and that deeds be translated by a certified translator. Thus Article 6 of the draft provides for the following:


Article 6


Non-certified translations


1. The authorities shall accept non-certified translations of public documents issued by the authorities of other Member States.


2. When an authority has reasonable doubts about the correctness or quality of the translation of a public document submitted to it in a particular case, it may request a certified translation of that document. In that case, the authority shall accept certified translations made in other Member States.


And to round off the invention, it comes to us as a regulation, which means that if it were approved it would be applied directly.


The draft of the new regulation can be consulted here:


https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2013:0228:FIN:EN:PDF


In my opinion, this proposal constitutes a real atrocity that leads us to an area of legal uncertainty where anything will be possible. If we remove the requirement for a certified translator, we are dispensing with one of the essential points when dealing with foreign documents: being able to reliably know the content of an original document written in another language. Because the primary function of the certified translator is to attest that the translation corresponds to the content of the original document. But if we also accept that the translation can be done by any randomly chosen person, who is not required to meet any requirements, things can get even more complicated. And we know a lot about that in Spain. See the situation we have reached in the courts because the law allows anyone to intervene as a court interpreter in the courts.


Having said that, and in order to prevent possible misunderstandings, I would like to specify that when I talk about the role of the certified translator I am strictly referring to the role he or she plays in legal transactions and not to his or her linguistic ability or the quality of his or her translations. There are many non-certified translators, such as literary translators, whose linguistic competence is extraordinary and brilliant (just as there are certified translators who are better not to talk about) and who would probably produce superb certified translations. But as they are not certified translators, for whatever reason, they cannot certify fidelity and accuracy in the sense that the law establishes. Therefore, let no one be angry. Many friends of mine are non-certified translators and great professionals and linguists in their work.


Returning to the central theme, I understand that the draft is nonsense in every sense. However, it is also true that the main idea behind it is quite old because it has little in the way of novelty. If we go back a little in time we will see that in 2009 Law 17/2009 of 23 November was approved on free access to service activities and their exercise and that it transposed Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market. Many will remember this law because the name it was given was quite striking: Umbrella Law. And that Law 17/2009 already contained a whole chapter called "Administrative simplification" and an article 17.3 that reads


3. In the case of documents issued by a competent authority either in Spain or in another Member State, the presentation of original documents or certified copies or certified translations will not be required, except in the cases provided for by Community regulations, or justified by reasons of public order and public security. However, the competent authority may request confirmation of the authenticity of the document submitted from another competent authority. Since then, however, many things have changed. Among them, the adoption of Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings which was a major step forward in bringing order to the judicial sector (see the entry The Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings is published). Hence my surprise at the new draft. It is fascinating to see that we have managed to introduce quality guarantees and interpreters in the judicial sector, putting an end to one of the greatest absurdities that existed in the courts, and that now there is a desire to voluntarily introduce this same error in the field of certified translations. Has no one learned anything? I cannot get over my amazement.


We will see what the future holds. We at the APTIJ and EULITA are absolutely against this project and that is how we are making it known to the various Community institutions. The European notary's office and our Austrian colleagues in the ÖVGD are of the same opinion. And I suspect that we will not be the only ones.

**2020 Update** If you're a regular reader of our blog you have probably noticed that we are generally very pro-EU and have written widely on the topic of Brexit and our belief that it is a bad idea. It does however take the UK at least out of the equation here. We do of course have quite a unique way of dealing with certified translations in the UK, with a generally more laid back approach in place, but any potential developments on the aforementioned issue will be unlikely to affect the United Kingdom now that we have actually left the European Union, even if the final details and agreements are still largely an unknown. Anyhow, we're here to help with our certified translation service whatever happens with EU law and Brexit negotiations. We can provide you with the service you need whether that's a certified translation in London, the UK, the EU or further afield. Just get in touch if you need a certified translation document, whether in hard copy or in digital format, we guarantee their acceptance as well as the lowest price.

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