Lost translation: Tajani quips that he’ll speak in Bulgarian next time as Parliament’s interpretation system fails

A failure of the translation system in Bulgaria’s National Assembly left European Parliament President Antonio Tajani ad-libbing as technical staff scurried to fix the fault.

A smiling Tajani, whose prepared remarks were in Italian, switched to English to quip to MPs: “It’s very difficult for me to speak in Bulgarian, it’s not easy. Next time”.

As the minutes ticked by, a good-humoured European Parliament President was not one to leave the air awkwardly empty, as television cameras that were relaying the event live swung up to the gallery to show a frustrated translation team pointing at their microphones and gesturing at their earpieces.

“Lots of Bulgarians speak Italian,” Tajani complimented his hosts. There was a good Italian school, too, he said.

When matters got underway after this interruption in the first few minutes of his speech to the National Assembly, Tajani completed his message, that the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU could count on the full support and co-operation of the European Parliament.

He no doubt meant overall, though with the EU having 25 official languages, the European Parliament has considerable institutional experience in keeping a translation system working.

Tajani congratulated the Bulgarian authorities on the progress that had been made in recent years.

He said that the most recent European Commission report on the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) noted that Bulgaria was making progress. CVM reports are part of the process of bringing Bulgaria and Romania up to EU standards in justice and home affairs following their accession to the EU in January 2007.

“I encourage you to follow this path,” Tajani said.

Bulgaria, he said, was a small country but with huge potential.

Because it is an external border of the EU, Bulgaria is key to European policy on cohesion, security and migration management.

Tajani concluded his speech by quoting the motto for the 2018 Bulgarian EU Presidency, “United We Stand Strong”. He delivered the line in Bulgarian – but that had been planned.

Before his speech to the National Assembly, Tajani held talks with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and with President Roumen Radev.

Following his meeting with Radev, Tajani tweeted: “Ten years of successful EU membership and its special geostrategic position have turned Bulgaria into a pillar of regional stability. Good exchange with President Rumen Radev”.

In another tweet, Tajani said: “Bulgaria and European Parliament see eye to eye on EU priorities: migration, security and youth job creation. Looking forward to working together on our shared challenges to produce tangible results for our citizens”.



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.