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Translation and Interpreting in Greece

We are making ongoing efforts at the Panhellenic Association of Translators (PEM) to introduce a National Official Translation and Interpretation System, managed by an independent authority, with a single national official translators and interpreters register.

What we want

PEM’s Extraordinary General Meeting held on 26 January 2020 approved the overall proposal on how official translations and official interpreting in Greece should be radically reformed. The proposal was presented by the PEM Board and will be formally sent to the relevant authorities.

It is a comprehensive proposal that is based on an in-depth analysis conducted by the sector into the current bad and chaotic situation, best practices in other countries, as well as translation theory and research on these matters.

The key points of our proposal are:

  • Making “Official Translator” a protected title.
  • Making “Official Interpreter” a protected title.
  • Determining whether a translation or interpretation should be considered “official” by its intended purpose and the public authority for which it is provided.
  • Establishing a National Official Translation and Interpretation System run by an independent authority.
  • Introducing a single National Official Translators and Interpreters Register that will include all admissible service providers right from the outset.
  • Establishing common rules and codes of conduct for anyone joining the national register.
  • Safeguarding the acquired rights of anyone who already has rights, including lawyers translating in an official capacity and graduates of the Ionian University.
  • Setting up a special register of working languages of limited supply. Lower formal entry requirements will exist in this case, but additional restrictions will also apply to anyone joining this register.

Not limited to just our members

We’ve taken this step not just for the sake of our own members, but to mobilise all Greek-speaking translators and interpreters who are university graduates, presenting a fair, equitable, legally sound and academically solid proposal.

The current situation

Today (2020), official translation can, in law, be done by: the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Service, lawyers and – in some cases – graduates of the Ionian University, quite a few of whom are also members of PEM.

PEM’s recent General Meeting took the view that the current system of official translation in Greece has failed to demonstrate that it:

  • is staffed
  • is organised
  • operates
  • can be improved

in a way that justifies the degree of regulation that currently exists.

Moreover, the system of public service interpreting is practically non-existent in Greece, and entails very serious risks for specific beneficiaries and the country as a whole, some of which have already materialised. There is a very real risk that the system will be completely deregulated, something that has already been tried in the UK.

Why the current system has failed

The aspects of the current failed system that demand reforms are:

  • Law 3712/2008 is obsolete and to a large degree remains defunct.
  • The current title of “official translator” is irreparably problematic because it is self-referential and is based on dividing texts into specific categories, which does not correspond to reality, with new text types and formats that need to be translated constantly arising.
  • The current system features various closed registers of translators. These are piecemeal and cannot be accessed using fair, uniform and scientifically objective criteria. This situation is not justified by overriding public interest nor is there any other good reason for it.
  • The professional rights of Ionian University graduates (who account for 10-15% of PEM’s membership) are sometimes respected and sometimes not, despite the enactment of Presidential Decree 169/2002 and the subsequent case law on the matter.
  • There is a legal lacuna when it comes to the right to access official interpreting services before public authorities. What we mean is that even though the Hellenic Republic has transposed a number of international conventions and EU Directives into its legal order, which oblige it to meet the translation and interpreting needs of specific groups of beneficiaries, those obligations are not being fully and adequately implemented.
  • Greece has declared “translator” and “interpreter” to be regulated professions, thereby bringing them under Directive 2005/36/ΕC. Despite having been declared to be “regulated professions”, they are not regulated in an appropriate and just manner, meaning that European citizens who have graduated from higher education programmes of equal status outside Greece and have acquired relevant working experience are at a disadvantage.

How citizens are affected

The consequences of the current failed system impact Greek, European and third country citizens severely since:

  • Basic human rights are not guaranteed.
  • Major legal obligations are not enforced.
  • The Hellenic Republic is unable to plan for its translation needs; the system is left to its own devices.
  • There is no quality control system.
  • There are major shortcomings when it comes to technology, since key IT technologies, translation memories, computer-added translation systems and the option for remote interpreting, among other things, are under-used or not used at all.
  • Many languages and dialects are not supported.
  • There is a diversity of registers and piecemeal provisions.
  • Fines and sanctions have been imposed on Greece and the country risks more being imposed.
  • Interpreters both in court and elsewhere remain unprotected; many language speakers who offer interpreting services to government bodies, who lack formal training and have learned on the job, are in fact fully dependent of the “benefactors” who finance those services, yet citizens don’t have a clear picture of the practices employed, the work done or the value for money of the NGOs involved.
  • Competition is distorted.

In short the current system lacks transparency, is formalistic, represents outdated approaches, and is fragmented and chaotic.

T. +30 2310 266 308 • Email info@pem.gr

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