MEPs cut EU parliament interpreting service to back strikers


Strasbourg (France) (AFP)

About a dozen MEPs interrupted the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday in support of striking interpreters who were immediately ordered back to work.

A few minutes after the start of the plenary session in the eastern French city, a few MEPs went to the technical control room and cut off power, halting translation and holding up the plenary session by about 30 minutes.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani apologised to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, blaming the disturbance on a few MEPs who were "acting as if they were trade unionists".

European Parliament interpreters have been on strike for several weeks over their working conditions, but they have been automatically requisitioned for important meetings and plenary sessions.

"We are here to support the interpreters and we have managed to block the microphones so that their message is finally heard," said Socialist MEP and former trade unionist Edouard Martin, in a short video broadcast on his Twitter account.

"We didn't know, we were surprised like the others, but we are delighted with what happened," a union source among the interpreters told AFP.

The European Parliament has the largest interpretation service in the world with plenary sessions available in the 24 official languages of the European Union.

Every one of the chamber's 751 deputies has the right to speak in the official language of his or her choice, leaving 552 possible translation combinations.

Among other demands, the interpreters say they should not be required to spend more than 7.5 hours a day in the interpreting booth -- whereas Parliament's management wants to increase the time from 7 to 8 hours.