MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and David Casa have protested about a lack of translators of Maltese at European Union meetings, insisting that the situation is “unacceptable.”  

Agius Saliba said the latest case happened on Wednesday at a meeting of the European Parliament's employment committee on the subject of discrimination. Soon after he started to speak, in Maltese, he was cut off and told by an official that an interpreter was not available. 

Agius Saliba obliged, but not before delivering a stern rebuttal to colleagues in the committee. 

“This is happening continuously in this committee… we have been complaining about this for a number of weeks now,” he said. 

Branding the lack of interpreters as “discrimination against the Maltese language,” Agius Saliba told officials he would continue in English, but would not be so accommodating in the future. 

“[It is] totally unacceptable I cannot speak as my colleagues do in an official language of the European Union… today I will be making my intervention, but I’m sorry, next time…” he said. 

Agius Saliba noted that there were other Maltese representatives present for the meeting, including the EU’s Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli.

Fellow MEP David Casa (PN) joined Agius Saliba in denouncing the lack of interpretation at the committee meeting. 

“It is not acceptable that my colleague was unable to speak in Maltese during the hearing in committee,” he said.

Casa agreed that Maltese interpretation should be available and said he had written to the EU about the issue. 

“The Maltese language is an official language of the European Union, just as French or German or Slovak or Greek. Maltese interpretation should be available in such meetings,” Casa said. 

As an official language of the EU, Maltese is meant to be accepted and interpreted in all official meetings. With 22 commission meetings taking place, often at the same time, however, a lack of interpreters can mean that not all 24 official languages are always able to be interpreted, an MEP told Times of Malta.  

This was not the first time that the EU has come under fire for not providing sufficient interpretation services in Maltese. 

In 2020, Labour MEP Alfred Sant complained that many freelance interpreters had been “left out in the cold” during the COVID-19 pandemic due to meetings taking place virtually, branding the lack of personnel “manifestly unfair and unjust”. 

In 2005, former Labour MEP and later Prime Minister Joseph Muscat refused to continue addressing the European Parliament (EP) after he was informed no interpreters were present to translate his speech from the Maltese language.

“This situation is not acceptable anymore. We either have our language as an official one with all its full rights or we have only an official language on paper,” Muscat told the EP back in 2005.

According to the EU’s language policy as found on the EP website, the EU has adopted a “full multilingual language policy, meaning that all EU languages are equally important... every Member of the European Parliament has the right to speak in the language of his or her choice.”

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