The Commission believes that the EU is characterised by its cultural and linguistic diversity and that the languages spoken in the Member States are an essential part of Europe’s cultural heritage. The EU therefore supports multilingualism in its programmes and in the work of its institutions.
The use of languages and the respect for linguistic diversity have been of key importance ever since the European institutions were created. The first ever act adopted by the Council was Regulation 1 from 1958 which determined the languages to be used by the European institutions.
This website describes how the Commission uses languages to provide information to and interact with the public, organisations and Member States.
The official and working languages of the EU institutions (hereinafter also ‘EU official languages’) are:
Some types of acts are not available in all EU official languages because they are not of general application (i.e. Commission decisions addressed to a Member State or private party), or because they are purely factual documents and are not adopted by the Commission (i.e. staff working documents).
Communication with individuals and organisations
Writing to the Commission
Individuals and organisations may contact the EU institutions on a wide range of topics. For instance they may
- request information
- participate in an administrative procedure
- file a complaint against a Member State
Regardless of the topic on which they contact the EU, individuals and organisations may write to the institutions in any EU official language and have the right to receive an answer in the same language.
Getting to know citizens’ views
Members of the public can participate in ‘Citizens’ dialogues’ (available in all EU official languages). These dialogues, held in the style of town-hall debates as well as on social media platforms, take place across the EU, usually with one or more Commissioners or high-level officials. They are held in the EU official language (or languages) of the host country or region, possibly with simultaneous interpretation in one or more additional languages.
Dialogues held on social media platforms are generally in English, French and German. However, an increasing number of events also use additional official languages, which are simultaneously interpreted.
The platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe is fully multilingual, and citizens can submit ideas, comments, and register events in all EU official languages, as well as in the co-official languages of Spain (Catalan, Basque, Galician).
Eurobarometer surveys, which sound out the public on a broad range of issues, are conducted in all Member States in the EU official language of that country.
To make it easier for people to participate in the EU policy- and law-making process, the Commission regularly launches public consultations in the form of online questionnaires. These questionnaires are always available in at least English, French and German and often in other EU official languages too. Public consultation questionnaires related to new initiatives listed in the Commission Work Programme are generally available in all EU official languages.
Replies to public consultations can always be submitted in any EU official language.
The Commission’s websites on the europa.eu web domain are generally available in the 24 EU official languages.
Social media activities
All EU official languages are covered on social media through the Commission’s central accounts, the social media accounts of the Commission’s Representations in the Member States and the accounts of the Members of the College of Commissioners. This includes social media content, campaigns and engagement with citizens.
The European Commission Spokesperson’s Service’s press material (such as press releases, questions and answers, factsheets) are always published in English, French and German. They are often also translated into specific languages or even all EU official languages on a case-by-case basis. Any press material related to the meeting of the College of Commissioners or of particular importance or general interest is translated into all EU official languages.
The ‘Daily News’, which is a collection of short news items highlighting the top news of the day presented by the Commission’s Spokesperson Service and linking to further information, is always a combination of English and French. Following the agreement between the SPP and the International Press Association (IPA), interpretation in English and French is available at daily noon briefings, except on Wednesdays (College weekly meeting day), when interpretation is available in 23 EU official languages (except Irish).
Commission Representations in the Member States
The dedicated websites and social media pages of the Commission Representations in each Member State use the EU official language (or languages) of the Member State concerned.
Translation and interpretation
The Commission relies on a pool of highly skilled translators and interpreters, ensuring that all EU official languages can be used in and by the institutions.
The Directorate-General for Interpretation provides interpretation services to EU institutions for meetings and conferences.
The Directorate-General for Translation translates documents from and into the 24 official languages for the Commission.
eTranslation is an online machine translation service designed and built by the Commission based on decades of high-quality in-house translation.
eTranslation’s primary focus is the 24 EU official languages. It offers a web page for manual use, and can also be integrated with other IT applications, for example, it can be used to provide machine translation for the Commission’s Europa websites and platforms when human translations are not available.
Machine translation can give you a basic idea of the content in a language you understand. It is fully automated and involves no human intervention. The quality and accuracy of machine translation can vary significantly from one text to another and between different language pairs.
eTranslation is used by the EU Institutions, and is available to public administrations and small and medium-sized businesses.
EU law on languages
The rules governing the use of languages by the EU institutions are established by the Council, acting unanimously by means of regulations, adopted under Article 342 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Those rules are laid down in Regulation No 1 from 1958, as amended, which provides that the institutions have 24 official and working languages.
English remains among those languages, also after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. In fact, English remains an official and working language of the EU institutions as long as it is listed as such in Regulation No 1 from 1958. English is also one of the official languages in Ireland and in Malta.
This Regulation also lays down rules on the languages in which legislation has to be drafted and published; and about the languages for documents sent between the institutions and the public or between the institutions and the Member States. The Commission is entitled by the same Regulation No 1 from 1958 to determine how to implement the language regime in its own internal functioning.