The components of the EU legislation - Acquis Communautaire - are: primary legislation (the Treaties), secondary legislation derived from the Treaties, and the case law of the Court of Justice.
Thousands of pages of legislation have been created since the beginnings of the EU in the 1950s. The legislation in force has to be translated into the official language of any country that joins the EU, revised by the EU institutions, and published in a Special Edition of the Official Journal on the day of accession.
It is noteworthy that during the 1995 enlargement, the Finnish and Swedish Special Editions of the Official Journal containing the Acquis were each approximately 50 000 pages. During the 2007 enlargement, the accession countries had to translate more than 120 000 pages of the Official Journal, which is, more or less, equal to 240 000 standard A4 pages of 1500 characters.
To present the complicate nature of the process of legal translation, translating the acquis has been described as "the linguistic equivalent of climbing Mount Everest". Governments of accession countries are responsible for these large-scale and complicated translation activities; and the translation is carried out by translation centres or translation coordination units established for that purpose within the structure of the ministries of justice, foreign affairs, EU integration or the Cabinet of Ministers.
There are three models of relevant translation centres:
- translation centre which undertakes all translation work without involvement of freelance translators;
- translation coordination units where revisers, lawyer-legal revisers, terminologists work, who coordinate and revise the translation done by freelance translators or translation centres that have won the relevant tenders;
- mixed model where the translation work is done by in-house and freelance translators, with the involvement of revisers, lawyer-legal revisers, terminologists and proofreaders.
Not only accession countries, but also countries that have perspectives of joining the EU or seeking closer integration with the EU, have established special units - Translation Coordination Units - called for this responsible and complicated process.
Such translation centres have been established in Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania and other countries.