According to many scholars, Community law simply cannot be understood
without taking its multilingual character into account. The equal authenticity
of all language versions of a Community provision, and the danger of diverging
meanings between versions, imply a duty to consider the various versions when
interpreting or applying laws. At the EU level, this duty can be said to be
reasonably adhered to, considering the enormous strain on the Union’s
translating service (there are now twenty-three authentic and working
languages used in the EU institutions). However – as this important book
reminds us – the day-to-day interpretation and application of Community law
actually takes place in the many and various courts and tribunals of the
For the first time in European law scholarship, Mattias Derlén provides an
in-depth analysis of the actual use of multilingual interpretation of
Community law in national courts. He has sifted from the (mostly recent)
history of high courts (and some lower courts) in Germany, England, and
Denmark some 186 judgements in which the courts diverged from reading the
national language version in isolation by admitting one or more other language
versions of a Community provision. In each instance he closely investigates:
why and under what circumstances this initiative was taken;
which and how many foreign language versions were used;
in what way the national court gained knowledge of the meaning of the foreign
language versions; and
how the court acted when the meanings of the examined language versions
deviated from each other.
Denmark, England and Germany were chosen because they represent three of the
classical Western legal families – the Scandinavian (Nordic) law, the common
law and the civil law traditions. In this connection, the author clearly
demonstrates that the shortcomings of national courts that emerge from the
study result not only from practical constraints, but also from features of
legal culture and basic notions of the law in the particular jurisdictions.
Multilingual Interpretation of European Union Law offers a superb
foundation for further work in an area of European law that is gathering
greater significance day by day. Although it goes without saying that any
scholar or student engaged in studying the multilingual aspect of European law
will find this book indispensable, there is also an important place for this
knowledge among academics and practitioners generally, given the pervasive
effects of language and translation in interpreting Community law.
Part I: Overview. 1.
Introduction. 2. Multilingual Interpretation in International Law:
Introducing the Vienna Convention. Part II: Rules
and Guidelines Concerning the Multilingual Interpretation of EU Law. 3.
The European Court of Justice and the Multilingual Character of European Union
Law. 4. Preliminary Rulings and Multilingual Interpretation of EU Law.
Part III: Multilingual Interpretation
of European Union Law in National Courts. 5. The Importance of
Multilingualism in Monolingual Interpretation. 6. Multilingual
Interpretation Activated by Interpretative Doubt. 7. Multilingual
Interpretation Activated Automatically. 8. Multilingual Interpretation
Activated by the Parties. 9. Multilingual Interpretation Activated by
Other Factors. 10. Choosing and Reading Foreign Languages. 11.
Reconciling Diverging Language Versions. 12. Understanding the
Attitudes of National Courts. Part IV: The
Emerging Picture. 13. Summary of Conclusions: The Complexity of the
Multilingual Interpretation of EU Law. Bibliography. Table of Cases. Index.