Committee of Ministers
Comité des Ministres
Strasbourg, 27 November 1998 Restricted
REPORT BY THE
ON THE USE OF THE BUDGETARY
FOR NON-OFFICIAL LANGUAGES1
Without changing the formal situation with
regard to the official languages of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General
has been anxious to adopt a more flexible approach to the use of non-official
languages in the work of the Organisation, taking account of the linguistic
realities of the Europe of today. In line with this approach, the Committee of
Ministers in 1997 adopted provisions for extending language services.
In the 1997 budget the Ministers’ Deputies
included an appropriation of 5,000,000 FF to finance additional expenditure
relating to the use of non-official languages in various sectors of the
Organisation. This sum was initially frozen, but was unblocked at the 586th
meeting in March 1997. An appropriation of the same amount was made for this
purpose in the 1998 budget. In the same decision at the 586th meeting
of the Deputies the Secretary General was asked to report back to the Deputies
on the use made of the monies voted. That is the purpose of the present
The appropriation of 5 MF included in sub-head
1104C of the ordinary budget was intended to cover expenditure for both
interpretation and translation. These two items will be treated separately
The Deputies’ decision stipulated that it was
the responsibility of the Secretary General
“1. to use the appropriation in a rigorous and
fair manner primarily on the basis of the number of national delegations which
have indicated in the past and/or indicate in the future that they require
interpretation in a non-official language for a particular meeting or group of
meetings in the sphere of intergovernmental co-operation;
2. in the light of these indications, which
should be submitted through the Permanent Representations, and within the limits
of the resources available, to provide interpretation.”
By letter of 28 April 1997, delegations were
informed how the Secretary General proposed to implement this decision. In
particular, having regard to the wording of the decision and the limited
appropriations available, priority would be given to requests for interpretation
submitted by at least three delegations. Furthermore, for organisational
reasons, it would not be possible to accept requests made less than six weeks
before the meeting in question.
In practice, the consequence has been that for
meetings of the main steering and ad hoc committees listed in Appendix II to the
Intergovernmental Programme of Activities, as well as the Governmental Committee
of the Social Charter, at least “passive” interpretation has been provided in
German (i.e. interpretation out of, but not into, German); for certain of these
meetings “active” interpretation has been provided at the request of the
For meetings of the Committee of Ministers at
foreign minister level (as well as for the Strasbourg Summit of Heads of State
and Government) the Secretary General has taken the initiative to provide
“active” interpretation in German, Italian and Russian and “passive”
interpretation in Spanish. The same applies to plenary sessions of conferences
of specialised ministers, unless the delegations concerned have indicated that
they need only “passive” interpretation.
Finally, in exceptional cases the Secretary
General has used his discretion to provide interpretation in a particular
language when it appeared indispensable for the effective participation of a
delegation or delegations at a meeting or conference.
As far as the cost of providing such facilities
is concerned, the initial period has inevitably been experimental. In 1997, as a
result of the temporary freezing of the appropriation by the Deputies up to the
month of March, followed by the need to define the conditions governing the
implementation of the Decision, interpretation in non-official languages was
financed only for the second half of the year. However, in order to ensure his
ability to maintain continuity in interpretation policy in the following
full-year exercise, the Secretary General strictly applied the criteria laid
down in keeping with the spirit of the Deputies’ decision. As a result,
1,706,593 FF out of the full-year estimate of 3,500,000 FF were spent on
interpretation in non-official languages in 1997. As for 1998, it is expected
that the full-year expenditure will not greatly exceed 2,000,000 FF. However,
this is partly due to the unusually low number of ministerial conferences
organised in 1998, and it is therefore not a reliable guide for future years.
Translation and dissemination
In the same decision of March 1997, the
Ministers’ Deputies specified that it was the Secretary General’s
responsibility, as regards translation, “to ensure the translation into
non-official languages and the dissemination of texts which are important for
the activities of the Organisation".
The Secretary General decided that in the field
of translation the first main use of the budgetary appropriation for
non-official languages should be to improve the availability of concrete results
of the Council of Europe’s work in the languages of the various member states.
He therefore launched an operation to publish in all the official languages of
the member states a volume containing a selection of the conventions
constituting the core of the legal acquis of the Organisation.
This operation has been carried out in close
co-operation with the Permanent Representations concerned. In particular, it has
been necessary to identify and make use of those translations already existing.
Moreover, the task of ensuring the full conformity of all new translations has
been particularly time-consuming because of the legal importance of the texts
concerned. An agreed national chief editor has been appointed to co-ordinate and
control the preparation of each non-official language version.
This consultation with national delegations has
in many cases taken much more time than expected, which has led to delays in the
spending of the part of the appropriation reserved for translation purposes.
However, the first volumes are due to be published before the end of 1998, and
several more during the first part of 1999 (see appendix).
Because of these delays, the Deputies authorised
the carry-over to the 1998 budget of 2,500,000 FF. For the same reasons, the
Secretary General is obliged to request a further carry-over of 800,000 FF
into1999. However, the delay has now been largely caught up and it is expected
that the sum carried over will be spent in the first part of 1999.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General has
supplemented this translation initiative principally as follows:
1. A brief summary of all the Council of
Europe treaties which still remain relevant is being translated and published in
the official languages of all the member states (in principle available at the
end of this year).
2. Considering the approach of the 50th
anniversary and the emphasis placed by the Committee of Ministers on the need to
enhance the visibility of the Organisation, he has authorised the translation
into non-official languages of certain texts designed to make the Council of
Europe known to a broader public (e.g. the brochure “Activities and
Achievements”, a file for school-teachers, documentation on bilateral relations
between individual member states and the Council of Europe, texts for
exhibitions in national parliaments,…..).
3. The report of the Wise Persons is being
translated into German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.
4. Certain basic texts of importance for the
MOSAIC Project on cultural policy development are being translated into several
languages of central and south-east Europe.
While the provision of certain facilities in
non-official languages has inevitably encountered a number of teething troubles,
the Secretary General considers that, taken as a whole, it has fulfilled the
objectives which he had in mind when he first made his proposal. In his view the
overall annual sum of 5 MF represents approximately what is needed to make a
genuine impact. He has therefore proposed that the Committee of Ministers
continue to make similar provision for non-official languages in the 1999
budget. He also suggests that the arrangements governing the use of this
appropriation be maintained, so that, on the one hand, the Interpretation
Division has the necessary guidelines for its normal planning but, on the other
hand, the Secretary General retains discretion to make ad hoc arrangements in
cases of manifest need.
Situation regarding the
submission of manuscripts containing the treaties expected dates for printing
late 98, or early 99
available late 1998
2nd half of
Considerable progress has been made with regard
to the preparation of the manuscript for the following countries :
Portugal, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, the
Netherlands (the two latter countries have nearly completed the work).
The work is starting for Romania and Moldova.
This report, following decisions taken by
the Ministers' Deputies at their 506th meeting on the working methods
of the Ministers' Deputies, is distributed but will not be placed on the agenda
of a meeting of the Deputies unless expressly requested by a delegation.