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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
EU tackles translation 'crisis'
EU documents
The Commission produces about 1.48 million pages annually
"Keep it brief" is the order being sent out to EU bureaucrats in a bid to cut the amount of untranslated paperwork facing the newly expanded union.

Officials have been told that from now on documents should be no longer than 15 pages - half the current average.

For the last five years, translators at the European Commission have been battling a steadily rising workload.

With nine new EU languages, the backlog has mushroomed to some 60,000 pages and could worsen if action is not taken.

Growing problem

Translators at the Commission have to cope with a massive 1.48 million pages of documents annually.

These include proposals for legislation, political assessments on relations with partners around the world, decisions on mergers and state subsidies in all the member states and written answers to citizens and companies.

Obviously if a document has to be longer, it will have to be longer. This is a sort of target, not a legal constraint
Eric Mamer, European Commission spokesman

Prior to EU enlargement on 1 May, there was a backlog of 6,000 pages still awaiting translation - but with enlargement this problem has increased tenfold.

With Estonian, Czech, Hungarian, Latvian, Maltese, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak and Slovene now on the list of official EU languages there are an estimated 60,000 pages to plough through.

But since the Commission cannot cut back on the number of official languages used, it has gone for the simpler option of telling its workers not to write so much.

Recruitment drive

"We want under normal circumstances our political documents to be 15 pages long, but obviously if a document has to be longer, it will have to be longer. This is a sort of target, not a legal constraint," Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels.

"On average, documents now are 32 pages long. So it's quite a significant effort that we are requiring from our services, but then again, everybody wants officials to be short and to the point, so it's an objective you cannot say no to," he added.

In tandem with the move, translators will be asked to increase their productivity by a massive 40%.

In an effort to ensure that vital documents are not left languishing on the EU paper mountain, work will prioritised and more translators recruited.

The Commission has already taken over 200 new translators to cope with the new languages, with another 200 joining in the autumn.

More will be recruited gradually until 2006.

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