If it isn't in your language, it doesn't count ...

Last week the European Court of Justice ruled in Case C-161/06 Skoma‑Lux sro v Celní ředitelství Olomouc (11 December 2007) that the obligations contained in European Union legislation cannot be enforced in any Member States if that legislation has not been published in the Official Journal in the language of that Member State. According to the Court, on a reference from the Czech Republic, Article 58 of the Act concerning the conditions of accession to the European Union of the Czech Republic ... and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the European Union is founded (the "Act of Accession") requires EU legislation to be translated and published in the official language of each Member State in which enforcement is sought.

The IPKat notes that this ruling does not explicitly cover the position regarding rulings and orders of the European Court of Justice itself, even though the courts of Member States may be obliged to follow them. Since so much intellectual property law and practice at Community level is driven by judicial slants on Regulations and Directives, he feels that the spirit of Skoma-Lux is at least on the side of those who argue for more -- and faster -- translations of ECJ and CFI decisions. Merpel agrees, noting that no-one rudely told the Czechs to stop complaining and learn some more languages.

The language of cats here and here
Teach yourself Eurospeak here
If it isn't in your language, it doesn't count ... If it isn't in your language, it doesn't count ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, December 20, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. Just few remarks from the point of view of one of those Czechs :-). The problem of translation of acquis is well known because few years after the accession of 10 new member states the legislation was not translated. It took as I remember over 2 years till the last piece of legislation was officially translated, I mean till the last journal was issued in relevant languages. What was a pity was the fact that they had just mechanically translated old journals instead of publishing consolidated versions of the directives and regulations. In relation to the ECJ and CFI judgements the situation is worse. I can’t find even one judgement before the accession translated into Czech unfortunately. Imagine, such judgements as Maggil and IMS Health ….

    OK the ECJ might answer learn some more languages, but the tendency is contradictory. Maltesian and Irish are new official languages. From my point of view I would prefer 3 official languages – French, German and ok English as well :-) at least because of the fact that we are little bit lost in translation – the legislation is not the same in all official languages.

    I would like to recommend you an article written by another Czech under the name “The Binding force of Babel: The Enforcement of EC Law Unpublished in the Languages of the New Member States. Available here or here.

  2. Much more than a common currency, the EU needs a common language. Which? For all sorts of reasons, it should be Latin - the language of no existing state, but the foundation of many. We then have one official text of each law, not twenty-odd. Further, by the principle of subsidiarity, translation into national languages then becomes a matter for individual countries to decide on - and pay for.

  3. Latin? Great idea but 200 years too late. Back in 1800 there were lawyers and judges enough, to operate the European legal system in Latin. But as we were all fighting each other back then, nobody thought of a European Court of Justice. Now we are ready to do law in Latin where are the lawyers that know the language. Shame.


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