A castle in the air : The complexity of the multilingual interpretation of european community law
Abstract: It is well known that European Union law is multilingual. Union legislation is not only published in all authentic languages but equally authoritative in each language. The European Court of Justice has discussed – and indeed made use of – this multilingual character when interpreting Community law.However, the day-to-day application of Community law takes place not in the European Court of Justice but in the courts of the Member States. This study is concerned with the attitude towards multilingual interpretation of Community law displayed by the latter courts. It is pointed out that the European Court of Justice has created extensive obligations for national courts to conduct multilingual interpretation without offering any genuine guidance. The study draws on judgments from Danish, English and German courts and identifies a number of difficulties encountered in the interpretative process. The overall impression is that the multilingual interpretation of Community law in national courts is severely limited.The study also examines a number of factors which can help explain the attitude of national courts. It concludes that not only practical issues but also aspects of national legal culture and fundamental notions of the law contribute to the limited impact of multilingualism. The requirements created by the European Court of Justice are, on a national level, nothing more than castles in the air.
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