Application of the language rules at the European Council and at the Council
The European Council and the Council consistently apply the common rules governing the languages used by the European Union's institutions.
During the discussions of the European Council and of the Council the representatives of the Member States (Ministers at Council level and Heads of State or Government at European Council level) speak in their own languages and interpreters from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Interpretation (formerly the SCIC) ensure smooth multilingual oral communication.
The deliberations of the European Council and of the Council are based on documents submitted to them in all the official and working languages. All language versions have the same legal and political validity. Legal acts adopted by the European Council and the Council, as well as Treaties and all texts published in the Official Journal of the European Union, are available free of charge in all the official languages from Eur-Lex, the interinstitutional database.
When communicating with members of the public, the European Council and the Council are always at pains to apply the principle of multilingualism as widely as possible. Under the Treaty, every citizen of the Union is entitled to write to the European Council and the Council – or indeed any of the Union's institutions and bodies – in one of the official languages and receive a reply in that language.
However, for practical reasons, there have always been limits on multilingualism at the European Council and the Council. For communication within the institutions, all of whose officials and other staff are expected to know two Union languages in addition to their mother tongue, the most widely understood languages are used; the same goes for work involving civil servants and experts from the Member States, who in general also use at least one foreign language. These limits are dictated by both practical considerations and budgetary constraints, in the interests of keeping operating expenditure down.