European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation Awards TRAD23

Trad 23 Translation Contract

The European Commission (EC) Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) has awarded a massive contract for translation services for the international body. 

The contract has been more than a year in the making, with the tender originally published on March 1, 2023, and applications accepted until May 31, 2023. The contract is effective through 2026 with the possibility of two additional year-long renewals.

TRAD23 is unrelated to the European Union’s call for tenders for translation services published on February 29, 2024. However, both application processes included online testing for both linguistic capabilities and project management.

50 lots comprise TRAD23, with each lot assigned a specific language combination and estimate of pages to be translated annually, ranging from 1,000 pages per year (Baltic and Scandinavian languages into English) to a maximum of 65,000 per year (English into Greek).

While the vast majority of language pairs include English, there are a handful of exceptions, namely German, Italian, and Spanish into French; and French into Danish, Dutch, and German.

Interestingly, DGT did not award contracts for Czech, Latvian, or Romanian into English.

Despite the historical difficulty in assigning and staffing Irish translation, DGT awarded English into Irish translation to two providers, both located in Galway, Ireland: Europus (representing Aircín Teoranta and Abairtin Teoranta in a joint tender) and Language Training & Translating Ltd. 

Several household names in the language industry snagged lots, including Lionbridge International (as a primary provider for Swedish into English and as a secondary provider for German into English, English into Danish, and French into Danish).

Semantix won several lots in a joint tender with ESTeam: English into Danish, English into Croatian, English into Slovenian, and Finnish into English. 

Acolad is a primary provider for 10 language pairs: Spanish into English and French; French into Danish, German, Italian, and Dutch; English into German and Polish; and Portuguese and Danish into English. 

The company may also handle translations from Hungarian and Italian into English, as well as English into Danish, Finnish, and Latvian, as a secondary provider. 

An Acolad press release on the award estimated that the contract wins would “triple” the company’s “engagement with the DGT,” which reportedly stretches back 17 years.

Cause for Concern?

The English into Irish lot happens to boast the contract’s highest price range: EUR 60-65.19 per page.

By contrast, the language combinations that will fetch the lowest rates per page are English into Romanian (EUR 12-19.75) and English into Greek (EUR 12.50-13.50).

The contract award itself does not offer an estimated total value of the contract, but it will surely be in the millions; Presto’s Commercial Director, writing on LinkedIn, stated that the LSP expected to earn about EUR 2.4m each for Czech and Slovak translation over a four-year period.

Some translators with experience working on DGT contracts, such as TRAD19, which TRAD23 replaces, expressed concern about price cuts in an environment of general inflation, in addition to expectations of increased daily output, presuming gains based on the use of machine translation.

“If the Commission does not act now, the required high quality of translation can no longer be guaranteed in the future.”

A group of 30 English-German translators raised these issues in a letter to Commission President Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, seen by Slator, asking the Commission to modify service contracts to obligate LSPs to pay subcontractors a fixed percentage of its page price and a minimum page price. 

“Already now a number of highly qualified colleagues from the TRAD19 consortium have announced their withdrawal from the specialist field of EU translations in view of the price situation,” they wrote. “If the Commission does not act now, the required high quality of translation can no longer be guaranteed in the future.”

According to an EC Spokesperson, “For TRAD23, the quality of the translations was given priority with a weighting of 70%. Pricing received a weighting of 30%. This is the highest weighting for quality allowed. This weighting enabled the Commission to choose a quality tender but also placed an obligation on tenderers to compete on price.”