Brussels, 25 October 2013
The Final Stretch: Two more days for EU law on right to translation and interpretation to become reality
A concrete step in the making of a European area of Justice is just two days away. On 27 October the deadline for Member States to implement the first EU law on rights of suspects in criminal procedures will expire. The EU law guarantees citizens who are arrested or accused of a crime the right to obtain interpretation throughout criminal proceedings, including when receiving legal advice, in their own language and in all courts in the EU. The law was proposed by the European Commission in 2010 (IP/10/249) and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in a record time of just nine months (IP/10/1305).
"This can be an historic moment for justice in Europe: the first ever law on fair-trial rights for citizens will become a concrete reality – if Member States live up to their legal obligations," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "This is the first to enter into application from three proposals made by the European Commission to guarantee fair trial rights for people everywhere in the EU, whether they are at home or abroad. The Commission is delivering on its promises to strengthen citizens’ rights everywhere in Europe. I expect Member States to deliver too. The European Commission will soon report on who has done their homework. We will not shy away from naming and shaming – after all, this law goes to the very heart of citizens' rights."
There are over 8 million criminal proceedings in the European Union every year. On 9 March 2010, the European Commission made the first step in a series of measures to set common EU standards in all criminal proceedings. The Commission proposed rules that would oblige EU countries to provide full interpretation and translation services to suspects (IP/10/249, MEMO/10/70). The proposal was quickly agreed by the European Parliament and Member States in the Council (IP/10/1305). EU Member States have had three years to adopt these rules, rather than the usual two years, to give authorities time to put translated information in place.
The Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings guarantees the right of citizens to be interviewed, to take part in hearings and to receive legal advice in their own language during any part of a criminal proceeding, in all courts in the EU. The Commission insisted on translation and interpretation rights throughout criminal proceedings to ensure full compliance with the standards provided by the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as well as with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Translation and interpretation costs will have to be met by the Member State, not by the suspect. Without minimum common standards to ensure fair proceedings, judicial authorities will be reluctant to send someone to face trial in another country. As a result, EU measures to fight crime – such as the European Arrest Warrant – may not be fully applied.
The right to translation and interpretation was the first in a series of fair trial measures to set common EU standards in criminal cases. The law was followed by a second Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings, adopted in 2012 (see IP/12/575), and the right to access to a lawyer, adopted in 2013 (IP/13/921). The Commission is set to continue with its roadmap in this area of justice with proposals for another set of fair trial rights for citizens expected before the end of 2013.
European Commission – fair trial rights: