legal multiligualism
EU texts
legal translation

How to Cite



The rule of law, guaranteed in democratic countries, requires that those who are subject to the law should be able to know the law (the principle of legal certainty). Hence, a citizen should have an access to laws in a language that he or she knows. Therefore, in multilingual settings, the principle of legal multilingualism requires that legal acts be drafted in all official languages and provides that all language versions be equally authentic and contribute to the meaning of a legal act. Thus, citizens can read laws in a language they understand. On the other hand, since no two languages are identical, the discrepancies between language versions, due to the nature of language or a mistake, are inevitable. The paper identifies methods applied by judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union and national courts to deal with the discrepancies between language versions of EU legal acts. Through case law analysis, the paper demonstrates whether the principle of legal multilingualism actually guarantees legal certainty and what courts can do to make the right to remain unilingual in a multilingual setting real.


Akehurst, Michael. 1972. Preparing the Authentic English Text of the EEC Treaty. In An Introduction to the Law of the European Economic Community, ed. B.A. Wortley, 20-31. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Baaij, Cornelis J.W. 2012. Fifty Years of Multilingual Interpretation in the European Union. In The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law, ed. P. Tiersma and L.M. Solan, 217-231. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Biel, Łucja. 2014. Lost in the Eurofog: The Textual Fit of Translated Law. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition.

Bobek, Michal. 2007. The binding force of Babel, The Enforcement of EC Law Unpublished in the Languages of the New Member States, EUI Working Papers Law 2007/06.

Cao, Deborah. 2007. Translating law. Clevedon; Buffalo: Multilingual Matters. Christiansen,

Pia Vanting. 2006. Language policy in the European Union. European/ English/Elite/Equal/Esperanto Union? Language Problems & Language Planning vol. 30, no 1: 21–44, (accessed August 30, 2014).

Coulmas, Florian. 1991. European Integration and the idea of the national language. Ideological roots and economic consequences. A Language Policy for the European Union: prospect and quandaries: 1-43.

Derlén, Mattias. 2009. Multilingual interpretation of European Union law, Kluwer Law International.

Derlén, Mattias. 2011. In defence of (limited) multilingualism. In Linguistic Diversity and European Democracy, ed. A. L. Kjær and S. Adamo, 143-166. Surrey: Ashgate.

Doczekalska, Agnieszka. 2009. Drafting and interpretation of EU law – paradoxes of legal multilingualism. In Formal Linguistics and Law, Trends in Linguistics – Studies and Monographs (TiLSM), ed. G. Grewendorf and M. Rathert, 339-370. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Doczekalska, Agnieszka. Jaśkiewicz, Jacek. 2014. Wykładnia aktów wielojęzycznego prawa pochodnego Unii Europejskiej przez polskie sądy administracyjne. In Zeszyty Naukowe Sadów Administracyjnych, nr 5(56)/2014: 66-76.

European Commission. 2012. FAQs on multilingualism and language learning, Brussels, 25 September 2012, MEMO/12/703, available at, (accessed August 30, 2014).

Gazzola, Michele. 2006. Managing Multilingualism in the European Union: Language Policy Evaluation for the European Parliament, Language Policy vol. 5: 393– 417.

Guggeis, Manuela. 2014. Multilingualism in the European Union Decision-Making Process. In Criminal Proceedings, Languages and the European Union:_Linguistic and Legal Issues, ed. Francesca Ruggieri, 45-56. Berlin:_Springer.

Luttermann, Karin 2009. Multilingualism in the European Union, Status quo and perspectives: The reference language model. In Formal Linguistics and Law, Trends in Linguistics - Studies and Monographs (TiLSM), ed. G. Grewendorf and M. Rathert, 315-338. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

McCluskey, Brian. 2001. Respecting multilingualism in the enlargement of the European Union - the organisational challenge. Terminologie et Traduction, vol. 2: 7-21.

Paunio, Elina. 2013. Legal Certainty in Multilingual EU Law. Language, Discourse and Reasoning at the European Court of Justice, Ashgate.

Pool, Jonathan. 1996. Optimal language regimes for the European Union. In International Journal of the Sociology of Language vol. 121: 159-179, (accessed August 30, 2014).

Pym, Anthony. 2001. The Use of Translation in International Organizations Contribution to the workshop “Translation and Institutions” at the conference Language Study in Europe

at the Turn of the Millenium, Societas Linguistica Europea, Leuven, August 2001;, (accessed August 30, 2014).

Reuter, Paul. 1953 La Communauté européenne du charbon et de l’acier, Paris: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence, R.Pichon et R. Durand-Auzias.

Robin-Olivier, Sophie. 2014. The Evolution of Direct Effect in the EU: Stocktaking, Problems, Projections. International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 12(1): 165-188.

Somssich,_Réka. Várnai,_Judit. Bérczi Anna. 2010. Study on lawmaking in the EU multilingual environment, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Stevens, Lisbeth. 1967. The Principle of Linguistic Equality in Judicial Proceedings and in the Interpretation of Plurilingual Legal Instruments: The Régime Linguistique in the Court of Justice of the European Community. Northwestern University Law Review, vol. 62, no 5: 701-734.

Šarcevic, Susan. 2013. Mulitingual lawmaking and legal (un)certainty in the European Union. International Journal of Law, Language & Discourse, Vol. 3, no 1: 1-29.

Šarcevic, Susan. 2014. Legal Translation and Legal Certainty/Uncertainty: From the DCFR to the CESL Proposal. In Translating the DCFR and Drafting the CESLA pragmatic perspective, ed. Bárbara Pasa, Lucía Morra, 47-70. Munich: Sellier.

Wagner, Emma. Bech, Svend. Martínez, Jesús M. 2014. Translating for the European Union Institutions, New York: Routledge.

Wojciechowski, Maciej, 2010. Wybrane aspekty problematyki pewności prawa. Gdańskie Studia Prawnicze vol. XXIV: 559-571.