Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2014

Publication Citation

21 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 223 (2014)


This paper explores representative environmental action in international, European Union, and German environmental law as an example of '7egal translation." The Aarhus Convention, dating from 1998, requests signatory parties to provide environmental NGOs with wide access to justice so that the protection of the environment can be controlled by the judiciary. Both the European Union and Germany have implemented the provisions of the Aarhus Convention into their respective legal orders. This process of implementation can be considered as "legal translations." The argument of this paper is that a perspective of '7egal translation" provides new vistas on the various intertwined layers of law constituting transnational environmental law. First, the example of representative environmental action shows how important context is for legal translations: the traditional German "impairment of rights doctrine" (Schutznormtheorie), historically developed in the nineteenth century, has still major importance in German administrative law and has to be taken into account when translating the Aarhus Convention. Secondly, legal translations take place in judicial hierarchies: both the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention have ruled upon Germany's translation of representative environmental action and found it wanting; yet, the picture is much more complex and nuanced than the usage of "hierarchy" suggests, as a closer look reveals. Thirdly, literal translations are the basis of legal translations: in transnational law, multiple languages have to be literally translated, both on a European and an international level. Fourthly, the example of representative environmental action demonstrates the persistence of national peculiarities: after all, national peculiarities cannot too easily be overcome or abandoned; rather, they continue to play a significant role in transnational law.

Regulatory Translations: Expertise and Affect in Global Legal Fields, Symposium, May 16-18, 2013, Istanbul, Turkey