Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service
In June 2016, we submitted the views of the Panhellenic Association of Translators (PEM) regarding the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service, in response to an invitation by the Ministry. We had arrived at these views and the corresponding proposals through an internal online deliberation.
Our objections for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service undertakes all types of translations for the public sector and the local governments, being the privileged provider of translation services in Greece. This is a distortion of competition.
One blatant example of competition distortion is the fact that many public servants prevent citizens from using professional translators, threatening them with various circulars.
PEM feels that this regulatory framework is liable for violations of the European legislation, which has established the freedom to provide services on an equal basis for all eligible European citizens based on their qualifications and not on a preferential state system.
We ask: How can it be that the translations of PEM members are accepted by public services, educational institutes, private bodies and individuals all over the world but not in Greece?
In general, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service:
- Does not participate in any tenders, but is merely awarded projects on its own financial terms. This is a violation of free economic activity.
- It undertakes private projects directly from citizens, practically acting as an unofficial private translation agency, with much more favourable terms than any professional. It does not pay taxes. It does not need advertising. It does not pay social insurance contributions. Its operating costs are covered by the tax payers.
- It does not provide the quality and prestige assurances its customers believe are guaranteed by its mere name. In practice, it lags behind in terms of organisational maturity; e.g. there is no evidence of quality assurance procedures in place that are in line with international standards.
- It is based on a network of affiliated translators. These comprise an unknown number of individuals, selected, reviewed and working in an obscure manner. The affiliated translator is no different in terms of quality and professionalism than the non-affiliated translator. It is just that the former has managed to be included in a select caste, towards which a large number of projects are being funnelled. This proves how unfair the arbitrarily preferential professional state of the translator is and how unequal job and personal development opportunities are in Greece.
- This state creates distorted market criteria, training customers to prioritise semantics (e.g. the title “Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service” on a document), rather than the accuracy and adequacy of a translation.
Our proposals for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service
The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service should limit itself to pure inter-governmental work of the public sector, immediately ceasing to undertake private projects. Otherwise, we are facing a gross violation and distortion of free and fair competition.
We believe that:
- Measures should be taken to ensure equal access of professional translators to the translation projects of the public sector, its legal entities and the local governments, based on tendering procedures and not direct awards.
- The legislative regulations, procurement regulations, circulars and any other type of regulatory decision which lead the public sector, local governments and private citizens that have documents in foreign languages to exclusively seek the services of the Translation Service, lawyers or graduates of the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation & Interpreting of the Ionian University should be amended or repealed.
Please note: An official translation is a very specific type of translation.
On condition that a new Translation Service operates based on our proposals, the following are required:
- To establish an external quality control procedure to verify compliance with the relevant standards.
- To create a permanent work committee staffed by members of the new Translation Service and professional associations, aiming, among others, to continuously improve procedures.