All member states have been given three years, instead of the normal two, to organise and get everything in place so that the new EU directive for the right to translation and interpretation in criminal proceedings can be executed correctly and run smoothly from the very first day of its implementation.

Member states were given until 27 October last year to make changes to their own system in order to accommodate this new EU law.

From this date, anyone that is arrested or accused of a crime has the right to an interpreter for the entire duration of the criminal procedure together with a translation of all relative documents and paperwork in their own language.

This is EU legislation now for all 28 EU member states which must provide translation assistance for interviews, hearings, police interrogation and court appearances.

Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, has already stated that the EU has no problem in naming and shaming the member states that have not complied with this regulation and that they will be penalised accordingly.

By the end of the summer, Spain had made little progress in the preparation to put this new legislation into practice and the current penal code includes very few, if any, of the main components of the directive.

It is very likely that Spain will appear on the list of countries that have decided not to comply with this EU law. However, that is not to say that Spain will not implement the law – progress is being made, just at a snail’s pace – it’ll just be late. But, better late than never though!

Components regarding the right to translation in the new EU directive

The following are all found within the new EU legislation.

  • The right to be assisted by an interpreter if the language of the criminal proceedings is not their own
  • The possibility for the translation to be carried out by videoconference, telephone or Internet if this doesn’t jeopardise fairness
  • A professional and efficient translation good enough so that the defendant understands the charges against them
  • The right for all documents to be translated in order to guarantee fair proceedings
  • The right to appeal in case of a poor translation
  • The translation of the detention order into the language of the accused
  • The member states must assume all translation and interpretation costs
  • The creation of a register of suitably qualified interpreters and translators

The EU Justice Department has calculated that there are 8 million criminal procedures within the European Union every year. And, what with an increase in mobility and migration for tourism or economic purposes, meaning that more and more people visit or temporarily or permanently live in other countries, there has been an increase in foreigners involved in criminal proceedings.

This new requirement is the first in a series of measures that the EU wants to introduce so that criminal procedures are unified in every single court within the EU. The aim is to ensure the same standards in every court so that judicial cases are always fair.