European 'Babel' to cost more than ?1bn

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The Independent Online

Last year's expansion of the European Union which admitted Malta, the Baltic republics and several former Soviet Bloc countries has saddled Brussels with annual translation costs that will soon surpass €1bn (£700m), officials said yesterday.

Last year's expansion of the European Union which admitted Malta, the Baltic republics and several former Soviet Bloc countries has saddled Brussels with annual translation costs that will soon surpass €1bn (£700m), officials said yesterday.

The 10 new members that were welcomed into Europe in May last year expanded the EU to 25 and added nine new languages for a total of 20.

Once the many cross-translation services this requires are at full speed, the overall cost of translation will rise to £566m per year from about £386m now, according to European Commission documents published Friday.

Additional interpretation costs may reach £167m in 2007, up from £74 m last year.

Together, funding this unique system will take almost £1.40 out of the pocket of every EU citizen each year. Many EU citizens have balked at the cost and called for a drastic reduction in the number of languages used officially by the European Commission.

The United Nations, with far more member nations, uses only six official languages, critics note. But Europe's army of translators is essential, said Ian Andersen, a department head at the Directorate General for Interpretation.

"There is no way around it if you want to work in a community of law," he told reporters. When EU laws are binding on its citizens, they should be able to consult them in their own language, he said.

Many in Spain are lobbying for the regional tongues of Catalan, Basque and Galician to get official EU status too. Some seek the same for Gaelic, as spoken in Ireland. Further planned expansions of the bloc could bring in Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish and Croatian.

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