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Au service de la profession d’huissier de justice dans le monde depuis 1952
At the Service of the Profession of Judicial Officer in the World since 1952
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Handbook on the Service of Documents in the EU: Translation


Articles 5, 8 and 9 of the Regulation.


The Regulation is the first international instrument to provide a complete and original mechanism concerning the translation of the document to be served.

Does the document to be served have to be translated?

When transmitting a document initiating proceedings, does this document have to be translated into the official language of that state? The answer is: there is no obligation to translate the document to be served.

However, under Article 8 of Regulation, the addressee of the document - and him/her alone - may refuse to accept the document to be served if it is in a language other than one of the following:
- A language which he/she understands or
- The official language of the Receiving Member State or, if there are several official languages in that Member State, the official language or one of the official languages of the place where the service has to accomplished.

According to Article 5 of the Regulation, the transmitting agency has to inform the applicant of the faculty of the recipient to refuse the document via the form in Annex II. This form must be handed entirely to the addressee in the twenty- two of the twenty-three official languages in force in the European Union. A good translation can be (very) expensive. It can however avoid wasting time and it can avoid dilatory exceptions.

Practical application

Document transmitted from England to GermanyUnderstanding of the language by the addresseeCan the addressee refuse the document?
The document is in English only. The addressee is not English. The addressee does not understand English.YES
The document is in English only. The addressee is not English.The addressee understands English.NO
The document is in English only. The addressee is English. The addressee understands English.NO
The document is in English and in German. The addressee is not German.The addressee understands German.NO
The document is in English and in German. The addressee is not German.The addressee does not understand German.NO
The document is in English and in Italian. The addressee is Italian.The addressee does understand German or English but he understands Italian.NO

What needs to be translated?

The question arises whether or not to translate the documents attached to the document to be served. A partial answer was given by the Court of Justice of the European Communities (ECJ, now the EUCJ), since it concerned only documents initiating proceedings (ECJ, 8 May 2008, Weiss und Partners, C-14/07, OJ C 158 of 21 June 2008, p. 5; and Dr. et procéd. 2008, n°6, p. 319, comm. Chardon, 2008 RCDIP P665. note Cornette). According to the ECJ, the document initiating proceedings should clearly specify at least the object and the reasons of the claims, but alos to invitation to appear to court or, depending on the nature of the proceedings the possibility to bring an action to court. The documents, used only as proofs and which are not essential for the understanding of the object and of the claim, are not considered as a part of the document initiating proceedings within the meaning of the Regulation. A great care must be given to this. The applicant should be advised to translate all documents that appear essential to the cohesion of the information provided to the recipient.

Who should translate the document?

Translation software must be banned. The use of free translation is strongly discouraged because a thorough knowledge of legal language is imperative. It is strongly recommended to use a translator for reasons of reliability and responsibility. Translation costs are paid by the applicant.

What happens when the document is refused for lack of translation?

The applicant will be informed will be asked to translate the document required as soon as possible to enable a new transmission to the receiving agency. The first transmitted document is still valid as regards the applicant. The document is considered as not served to the addressee if the translation is not send. The Regulation adjusted the rules concerning the date to take this issue into account.

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