Our intention was to cover not only interpreters and translators working at courts but all interpreters and translators working in a legal context, i.e. at police interviews, in court proceedings, asylum procedures, in lawyer-client consultations, in post-trial measures, etc. Moreover, in the course of the last decade the terms “legal interpreter” and “legal translator” have been used in various EU projects (e.g. Agis, Grotius) dealing with interpreters and translators working in these various settings and found their way into various DG JLS and EU Council documents such as the Green Paper or the proposed Framework Decision on procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings, or the Reflection Forum report on (legal) interpreter training commissioned by DG Interpretation. It therefore appeared quite logical to continue this practice with the EULITA project. Moreover, the practice in EU member states differs to such an extent – one uses e.g. sworn, court, certified, authorized, specialized interpreters/translators, to cite only those (also the FIT Committee uses “court interpreters and legal translator” in one and the same phrase) – that a single straightforward term referring to the comprehensive context of the legal settings seemed called for. We will provide a detailed definition of the concept of “legal interpreters and translators” on the EULITA website, so as to avoid any misunderstandings, especially among those translating or interpreting legal texts but not being translators and interpreters working in a judicial context. In time it will even be possible to adopt a definition of the concept which then, by amendment, can be incorporated in the EULITA Constitution, at the first General Assembly of EULITA, which will be held in a year’s time, if the EULITA members feel any need for it. Alternatively, it can simply be made part of the Internal Regulations.
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It is common EU practice that EU-associated countries (Norway, Switzerland or Iceland, for example) or countries in the process of joining the EU (e.g. Croatia, Albania, etc.) can join EU-based associations in one form or another. Moreover, the interest expressed by overseas associations (e.g. NAJIT, USA) shows that EULITA should also open itself to such members and benefit from the exchange of experience with different parts of the world.
In short, it depends. If you practise as a legal interpreter and translator (LIT) and reside in a country where there is no national or regional member of EULITA, then yes, you may apply as an individual. If, on the other hand, you practise as a LIT and reside in a country where there is a national or regional member, then membership of that association automatically confers membership of EULITA upon you, and individual membership is not available.1
Applications for associate membership are also welcome from legal interpreters and translators outside the EU, where national and regional associations are not eligible for full membership. Likewise, applications are welcome from legal practitioners in other fields, such as solicitors, advocates and others from both inside and outside the EU, provided they support the objectives and goals of EULITA and are willing to share in the exchange of best practices.
1 See the Constitution, Article 5, noting 5.2, 5.3, 5.4 and in particular 5.4.3, referring to Associate Members « Or they can be individuals from within or outside the EU, including those in member states where as yet no national or regional association exists ».
Unlike in other settings in which associations generally function, the EU bodies expect EULITA to play an active role in the practical implementation of the future EU Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, where major efforts will be required to cooperate with the other stakeholders in the judicial field (e.g. judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, etc.). The conference accompanying the launch of EULITA last November also showed that police authorities, asylum authorities, judges, lawyers and criminal bar associations want to cooperate with legal interpreters and translators in order to improve mutual understanding and consequently the quality of the services provided by legal interpreters and translators.
As there are different judicial systems in EU member states, the criteria for becoming a legal interpreter and translator also differ from country to country. The national systems for “certification” or “accreditation” will naturally serve as the point of reference when examining applications for membership. EULITA will certainly not impose any system of training upon any country or association. It will, however, recommend model curricula for the training of legal interpreters and translators in order to assist in the raising of quality standards for legal interpreting and translation.
Article 2.3. of the EULITA Constitution states as a specific goal of EULITA that it will “support the interests and concerns of national associations of legal interpreters and translators and represent the interests and concerns of the profession of legal interpreters and translators vis-àvis European and international organizations and institutions.” This does not mean that EULITA intends to bypass or interfere with any national efforts by associations of legal interpreters and translators. On the contrary, EULITA will always be ready to support legal interpreters and translators on a national level if requested for assistance vis-à-vis national authorities by national associations or by individual members in EU member states where such associations as yet do not exist.
The full members of EULITA are the national or regional associations of legal interpreters and translators in EU member states. They approve the work of the Executive Committee in the annual General Assembly. This means that they control the direction in which the association develops. EULITA’s Mission Statement defines very clearly that the association does not intend to strive to obtain any “dominating” position in the field of legal interpreting and translation. It should also be borne in mind that EULITA has been set up as a “not-for-profit association” (aisbl) under Belgian law, which precludes any involvement in commercial activities.