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The organisational structure

At the end of 1994, the personnel of the SdT numbered almost 1,700. Of these, 1,175 were language specialists and 452 support staff.

The Director General is responsible for the overall strategy of the SdT, for human, budgetary and computing resources, for their organisation and for criteria for their distribution. He is supported by a Senior Management Committee, which is the main decision making body of the SdT. We shall return to the Senior Management Committee at the end of this section.

Until 1989, the SdT, like most translation services, was organized around the particular languages. A re-organisation, intended in part to bring the translation services closer to the requesters, resulted in the creation of departments (Groupes thématiques), each of which deals with the translation requests coming from a specific set of customers. The distribution is as follows:

: General and Administrative Affairs, Budget and Financial Control.
: Economic and Financial Affairs, Internal Market and Competition.
: Agriculture and Fisheries, Regional Policy, Structural Policies.
: Foreign Affairs, Customs, Development, Expansion and Humanitarian Aid.
: Technology, Energy, Industry, Environment and Transport.
: Social Affairs, Consumer Service, Human Resources.
: EUROSTAT, Information and Innovation, Credit and Investments, ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) Consultative Committee.

The first five of these departments are based in Brussels, the second two in Luxembourg. A Director in Luxembourg is specifically responsible for the functioning of the services in Luxembourg, and in particular for the management of human and budgetary resources there.

Presence in two sites implies considerable travel across the Ardennes, especially for some of the more senior staff. Since the larger part of the service is concentrated in Brussels, meetings tend to happen there more frequently than in Luxembourg. One of the Luxembourg staff interviewed remarked that travelling to Brussels by train with his colleagues at least once a week had significant value in that it offered time for discussion on questions of mutual interest.

It will be realised that the organisation into departments also allows translators to specialize. But it would be a mistake to think that each group works only for a single requester: rather, requests are received from several different organisational sources, which may well have conflicting priorities. As an extreme case, the head of one department said that he dealt with 150 different requesting groups.

Within each department there are nine units, one for each of the languages. A Unit typically consists of between fifteen and twenty translators plus support staff. As we have already noted, the units dealing with English, French and German are larger than the other units.

Finnish and Swedish are beginning to be dealt with inside the Commission, though much work is still done outside. By the end of 1995, about 50 linguistic staff will have been recruited for each language. This will eventually become a hundred translators and thirty secretaries for each of the languages. The new staff will initially be organised into independent sections according to language. They will not be integrated into the departments until somewhere around the middle of 1996, when at least seventy linguistic staff will have been recruited for each language.

A certain proportion of documents (a little less than 10 of the total) are multilingual and multi-thematic. Though these documents are translated within the normal translation units a separate Unit dealing with planning and resources (SdT/01) coordinates their production.

SdT has its own computer services unit (SdT/02), numbering some forty staff. The computer services are responsible for the functioning of the hardware and software infrastructure of the SdT, for the coherence of the different parts of that infrastructure, for training in the best use of the services offered and for assistance to users.

There is also a small unit (SdT/03) responsible for modernisation of work methods. The main aim of this unit is work out and present the options available for how the work of the SdT might evolve.

A number of tasks are concentrated in central units, grouped together into the Directorate for General and Language Matters (AGL). AGL personnel number around one hundred and eighty, of whom around ninety are linguistic specialists.

AGL 1 deals with coordination of problems specific to each particular language, and has a language coordinator for each of the languages. AGL 2 deals with training and recruitment. AGL 3 deals with terminology and language support services, including the promotion of new translators' aids tools, creates and manages linguistic and terminological resources to be integrated into translators' aids tools and collaborates with the other Institutions on exchange of terminology. AGL 4 deals with the specification and development of multilingual tools, analysing and defining needs and sometimes building prototype versions, coordinates the participation of the SdT in the linguistic programmes managed by D.G. XIII and seeks to use the results of those programmes for the benefit of the SdT. AGL 5 deals with freelance translation.

The work of all these units is described in more detail in this section, where support services are discussed.

Apart from the central translation services, established in Brussels and in Luxembourg, there are outposts attached to the Commission Offices in Bonn, Copenhagen, Milan, Munich, Athens, Madrid and Lisbon, whose task is to facilitate liaison with freelance translators. They also help the Offices by translating material for local public distribution and maintain and reinforce contact with translators' schools and academia.

The SdT makes heavy use of freelance translators: about 17 of the total volume of translation was dealt with by freelances in 1994, and this has increased in 1995 to about 20.

There are also teams in the capitals of the new Member States, whose task is to revise the translation of secondary legislation into the new languages. These groups each consist of 15 language specialists, 5 secretaries and a coordinator.

The Senior Management Committee is the main decision making body of the SdT, and as such, tries to keep an overview of all matters pertaining to the Service. Since its work presents the Service in a microcosm, it is perhaps worth looking at it in a little detail before leaving this section.

The Committee is chaired by the Director General. Its members are the Heads of Department, The Heads of Planning, of Computing Services and of Modernisation of Work Methods, as well as the Director of AGL. Meetings are also attended by the Director General's assistant and his administrative assistant, and by his private secretary who prepares the meeting and keeps the minutes. Non-members may be invited to attend the meetings in order to report on or to discuss particular topics. Fairly regular visitors, for example, are the Heads of the Units responsible for freelance translation, for training and for recruitment, as well as those responsible for the horizontal services.

The agenda for the Senior Management Committee is planned over a period of about two months, so it is often possible to know well in advance when a particular issue will be discussed. The Committee meets once a week on Monday morning. The draft agenda for each meeting is prepared and distributed the previous Wednesday. Modifications can be introduced up until Friday morning.

The agenda is organised around three main areas. First there is a part typical of all meetings, for example approval of the minutes. Also in this section the Director General will report on his meetings with other Directors General, give news from the Commissioners and so on. A second section contains items for discussion. The third section contains items such as written communications for circulation, where members may comment but there is not expected to be any thorough discussion.

Matters discussed in the Senior Management Committee are reflected in the weekly information sheet (``feuille d'information'') which is distributed throughout the SdT. This is a double sided page of information which contains the latest administrative information. It will for example report on important meetings between officials of the SdT and external parties or on visits from dignitaries, will give summaries of important documents presented to the Service, report on movements of personnel, give important computing news, make an announcement when a call for tender of interest to the Service goes through and so on. The final point on the agenda of each meeting concerns what should be reported in the information sheet.

Minutes of each meeting are distributed the following Monday. The agenda, the minutes and most of the documents which have been discussed are distributed in the documentation dossier (the ``liasse'') of the Senior Management Committee, which, in principle, reaches every individual in the Service (documents in a very preliminary early draft state are not included). The documentation dossier is distributed the day after the meeting to all participants, with extra copies to the Heads of Department for distribution to their Heads of Unit. At this point, distribution policy will vary: some Heads of Unit pin the dossier to a notice board, others will circulate it. Neither policy guarantees, of course, that the dossier will actually be read. Indeed, both the dossier and the information sheet have something of a reputation for being rarely read.

However, the meeting of the Senior Management Committee and the dossier will form the basis of the meeting which the Heads of Department hold on Tuesday or on Wednesday with their Heads of Unit. We shall take this up in more detail in a later section when we look at the work of the Heads of Department and of the Heads of Unit. Enough has been said here to give an overview of the organisation of the SdT.

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Next: Computing equipment Up: Background Previous: The texts