The Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union was created on 28 November 1994 as a rational response to the translation needs of a large number of European agencies and offices.

The Council of the European Union enlarged this role in 1995, considering that it was necessary to strengthen interinstitutional cooperation in the field of translation, "to enable the Centre to carry out, in the medium term, any activities the amalgamation of which has been decided on in accordance with the rules in force".

This enlargement, introduced on 30 October 1995, gives a new dimension to the key role of the Centre. Firstly, translation and related activities are extended to those institutions and bodies having a translation service. This type of cooperation is established on a voluntary basis and with the aim of absorbing any surplus work which may arise.

Secondly, the amendment to the Founding Regulation involves the active participation of the Centre in interinstitutional cooperation with a view to "rationalising working methods and making overall savings". The Centre is therefore a full member of the Interinstitutional Committee for Translation and Interpretation (ICTI) and contributes to activities in the following fields: resources, terminology, administration, external translation, new working methods and techniques, etc.

The Centre is established in Luxembourg, in accordance with the decision taken by the Heads of State and Government of 29 October 1993 on the location of the seats of certain decentralised agencies.

It is an agency governed by European public law, with legal personality. It has its own financial resources constituted by the transfers from the agencies, offices and institutions in exchange for services provided.

The Centre is governed by a Management Board, which consists of representatives of the Centre’s clients, a representative of each EU Member State, and two representatives of the European Commission.

The Centre is under the authority of a Director appointed by the Management Board for a five-year term.

Since the start-up of its activities in 1995, the Centre has gradually organised its services and administrative procedures and strengthened its operational capacity to respond to the increased number of clients and workload.

The Centre has around 200 staff members (as per 31 December 2013).