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Translation and the European Union

The EU policy of communicating in 24 official languages (multilingualism policy) is unique in the world. All official languages enjoy equal status. EU citizens in the 28 member countries can use any of them to communicate with the European institutions, which helps to make the Union more open and more effective.

Translation services

A multilingual organisation like the EU needs high quality translation and relies on professional linguists to keep it running smoothly. The role of the language services in the various EU institutions and bodies is to support and strengthen multilingual communication in Europe and to help Europeans understand EU policies.

The Directorate-General for Translation (DG Translation) is the in-house translation service of the European Commission. We work in all the official languages of the European Union and, as new countries join, their main languages are added to the number.

Other EU institutions and bodies have their own translation departments, whereas the various agencies, spread around the EU, have a translation centre in Luxembourg to handle their translation work:

Selective translation

Of course, not everything is translated into every official language — far from it. At the Commission, the only documents produced in all 24 official languages are pieces of legislation and policy documents of major public importance — accounting for about a third of our work.

Other documents (e.g. correspondence with national authorities and individual citizens, reports, internal papers) are translated only into the languages needed in each case.

Internal documents are all written in (and sometimes translated into) English, French and German. Similarly, incoming documents — which may be drafted in any language — are translated into one of these three languages so they can be generally understood within the Commission.