Seven years of translating EU legal acts
Translating EU legal acts is one of Estonia’s obligations before acceding to the EU. This work is rightly part of a larger assignment: candidate states must assume the acquis communautaire of the Union, which in layman’s terms means bringing all of its laws into conformance with the union’s legal acts and being prepared to apply them immediately after accession.
Translation is the precondition for this goal. The decrees of European institutions are directly applicable, which means that translated versions will have legal force upon accession. Since directives are binding for member states in terms of the objectives contained within, the requirements must be transferred to state law. Translating directives in the legislative sense – where the translation becomes the law of the land – involves more preliminary work than actual translating.
Translating legal acts constitutes a great responsibility. Aware of the importance of the work, the Estonian Legal Language Centre was established in 1995 under the State Chancellery. A professional approach and quality-centered process were developed during the first years of operation. A quality legal translation mirrors the original’s content, objective and specific nature, is grammatically correct and consistent in its wording and use of terminology. A quality-centered translation process requires editing and checking of terminology. Aside from translating, the center has set up a database of terms to assist translation; both terms used in EU legal acts as well as Estonian legal acts. One of the ideas behind the database is to create a record of terminological research so each successive translator would not have to repeat the work upon translating the next legal act. Archiving terminological research also helps fulfill the other quality objective of legal translations – consistency of terminology throughout texts.